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B.C. Ferries application a step toward fully electric ferries on Gabriola, Quadra runs

B.C. Ferries seeks approval from B.C. Ferry Commission for engineering design work
B.C. Ferries has filed an application with the B.C. Ferry Commission for prep work that could lead to electrification of ferries that service Nanaimo and Gabriola Island. Pictured here, the Island Kwigwis ferry sailing into Nanaimo Harbour terminal. (Nanaimo News Bulletin file)

B.C. Ferries is advancing plans to convert new hybrid ferries on Vancouver Island to fully electric-powered.

The company ultimately seeks “electrification” of vessels serving Campbell River-Quadra Island and Nanaimo-Gabriola routes, and has applied to the B.C. Ferry Commission to begin designing “shore-based infrastructure upgrades to accommodate vessel electrification,” B.C. Ferries said in an e-mail. The vessels currently run on a hybrid diesel-electric model and can be upgraded.

B.C. Ferries said it seeks “determination as to whether this work is reasonably required before incurring these capital costs.”

“Approval of this application would allow funding for B.C. Hydro to go ahead with the design work for upgrading its systems, as well as funding for the design for the terminal upgrades,” the statement said. “If approved, the preparatory work would take about a year to complete and would allow for further engagement and consultation with stakeholders and First Nations.”

Full electrification is projected to lead to an annual reduction of 5,675 tonnes of greenhouse gas for the Nanaimo-Gabriola route and 7,155 tonnes for Campbell River-Quadra Island, noted B.C. Ferries’ application. Using renewable diesel reduces greenhouse gas by 4,200 tonnes annually for the Gabriola route and 5,305 tonnes for Quadra Island, the application said.

Steven Earle, Gabriola Island Ferry Advisory Committee chairperson, said electrification is something that has been sought for a long time.

“It’s certainly something that we want to see … these two ships are using way more diesel than the one ship we had before, so we would really like to get this done,” he said.

Earle said a meeting with B.C. Ferries will take place in March, when the topic is expected to be discussed.

The ferry company said that it would still need to make a major capital investment for the electrification project, but it hasn’t been successful in obtaining federal funding thus far. The application is just a step in the process, it said.

The B.C. Ferry Commission is seeking comments from the public on the matter until Dec. 31. Feedback can be provided by e-mailing

The commission is an independent body managing coastal ferry operators in the province. For more information, go to

RELATED: Hybrid ferries begin servicing Nanaimo, Gabriola Island

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Karl Yu

About the Author: Karl Yu

I joined Black Press in 2010 and cover education, court and RDN. I am a Ma Murray and CCNA award winner.
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