Heavy equipment can be seen working at the new BC Ferries berth in Bella Coola

Heavy equipment can be seen working at the new BC Ferries berth in Bella Coola

$2.5M project underway at BC Ferries terminal in Bella Coola

Construction has started in the $2.5M project to modify the berth at Bella Coola

Construction has started in the $2.5M project to modify the berth at Bella Coola in anticipation of the new vessel that will be servicing the terminal, the Northern Sea Wolf.

The work includes adding mooring dolphins, a fender pontoon, and electrical improvements and is being undertaken by a very large crane and heavy equipment.

“We are installing two new berthing dolphins (structures where the ship rests against when in berth) and modifying the front (pontoon structure) of the existing berth to provide safe overlap between the vessel ramp for the shore structure,” said Darin Guenette BC Ferries Manager, Public Affairs.

The construction crew consists of 11 people and the work is expected to be complete by the first week of March.

The Northern Sea Wolf is slated to begin its first sailing on June 19 leaving from Bella Coola at 9:30 am and arriving in Port Hardy at 5:30pm.

The ship, which was purchased for $12.6M from a Greek shipping company, is currently undergoing extensive renovations in the Esquimalt Drydock, which was awarded contracts worth $20M to completely refit the 246-foot-long ship.

It will have room for at least 35 vehicles and 150 passengers and crew and will also be featuring the work of a First Nations artist to create the interior of the vessel.

A call from submissions from Indigenous artists and writers from the Nuxalk Nation, the Gwa’sala Nakwaxda’xw Band and Kwakiutl First Nation at Port Hardy, and the Heiltsuk Nation recently closed on January 22.

There has been some discussion over the structure of the ship as vehicles can only enter one-way, versus other vessels in the BC Ferries fleet that have a “drive-through” design.

“The loading and unloading of vehicles is a function of the features of the Northern Sea Wolf and not any changes at the terminal,” said Guenette. “Because the vessel has one large ‘door’ for loading/unloading at the rear, this means that vehicles cannot ‘drive through the vessel’ at each port.

“Therefore, at Bella Coola, the practice will be for smaller vehicles to drive on and be turned around once inside. However, larger vehicles will be backed on to the vessel, as there is insufficient room to turn them around once on board.”

Bella Coola Valley Tourism President, Tom Hermance, says the work is “exciting” for the community.

“It’s exciting to see the various upgrades and construction going on in the Valley in preparation for the upcoming direct ferry service route,” said Hermance. “The wharf’s upgrades for boaters includes new docks, pilings, waterlines, a wider ramp, and added moorage space. All these improvements will help Bella Coola establish itself as a true global destination.”