Harbour ferry service to replace Blue Boat shuttles

Plans are underway to offer a new ferry service that will shuttle military and defence personnel between Colwood and CFB Esquimalt.

The vessel Grey Selkie cuts through the waters off Nanaimo in this undated photo. This 40-passenger vessel is one of two Victoria Harbour Ferry Company boats used to shuttle military and civilian defence personnel between Colwood and CFB Esquimalt May 1

Plans are underway to offer a new ferry service that will shuttle military and defence personnel between Colwood and CFB Esquimalt.

It could start as early as May 1, the day after the base’s Blue Boat sails for the last time, pending final approval from base officials.

The Victoria Harbour Ferry Company’s plans, announced Wednesday, are in the final stages of negotiation with CFB Esquimalt commander navy Capt. Craig Baines.

The private ferry service, which does not yet have an official name, will offer a service to personnel that is a mirror image of that provided by the Blue Boat. Two 40-passenger boats will run a total of 28 sailings each day of the work week, between Colwood, Dockyard and Naden.

The company is buying a new boat so that it can have two 40-foot boats, each manned with two crew members, in the water at one time.

There is strong demand for a water ferry service from military members as well as residents throughout the region who are concerned about traffic congestion, said Barry Hobbis, Victoria Harbour Ferry vice-president of operations.

More than 750 military and defence personnel responded to a company survey. Of those, 98 per cent said they wanted to see a water shuttle continue at the base.

“I hope we’re able to look after those people that I think right now are very frightened,” Hobbis said. “There’s lots of families with one car that just don’t know how they’re going to (manage) that.”

CFB Esquimalt officials are also excited about the proposal.

“We’re really interested because they’re an established company that has suitable vessels and want to seamlessly transition into this service as of the first of May,” Baines said, noting there are security issues, among other issues, that need to be addressed before the replacement shuttle can begin.

“Right now we’re confident that we’re going to be able to work through those issues and we’re really hopeful we can make that target date.”

Even after learning of the ferry service, Colwood resident Cynthia Cummings still plans to launch a “Blue Bus” service May 1, for military and defence personnel and members of the public.

“Of course, it is really up to the members themselves which service they want to use. In saying that, I think the obvious choice would be a boat service because it is faster,” she said.

“We were there to basically be an assurance to the military member that they were going to get to and from work. So if something else was brought forward, that just gives them another option.”

For details on the Victoria Harbour Ferry Company’s water shuttle service, visit www.victoriaharbourferry.com. For more on the Blue Bus shuttle, visit www.bluebusshuttle.com.