The MV Nimpkish, one of the oldest ferries in BC Ferrries fleet and longtime fixture on the central coast, has retired from service. The vessel was officially sold as of Sept. 20, 2020 to a private individual residing on the north island.
“The Nimpkish has been retired from our fleet,” confirmed Deborah Marshall, BC Ferries Executive Director, Public Affairs. “The sale of the 47-year old ship to a local company was finalized on Sept.20, 2020. The new owner will move the vessel from Shearwater to the northern Vancouver Island area. We understand the new owner will use the vessel for ongoing trade in the marine industry. We wish the new owner every success with the new venture.”
The Nimpkish was deployed to the central coast in 2014 following the cancellation of the Queen of Chilliwack in 2013. It was fraught with controversy from the beginning; critics argued the vessel was too small to conduct the route safely, and as recently as Jan. 2020 it entered Bella Coola during a winter storm encased in ice. And, that wasn’t the first time; the same scenario occurred in Feb. 2019 as well.
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Tourism suffered as a result, as passengers repeatedly complained about the long journey and the lack of services. Bella Coola tourism operators joined forces with local First Nations and surrounding tourism operators out to the Chilcotin and beyond to lobby the government for a new vessel and a new, direct route. They were successful and despite numerous setbacks, the first season of the Northern Sea Wolf saw over 5,000 passengers in 2019.
The summer service of the Northern Sea Wolf was cancelled this year due to COVID-19, but BC Ferries has since opened up its sailings across the province with new safety measures in place. Marshall said that BC Ferries plans to operate the Northern Sea Wolf in 2021, but its promotion abroad will depend on international travel restrictions. A large majority of travellers on the route are international travelers, and at this time it’s uncertain on whether or not they will be returning next year. Marshall said it will also depend on local travel restrictions as well.
“We have partnerships with International Tour Operators that do promote the NSW abroad. Next season will be dependent on international travel restrictions,” said Marshall. “We do plan to promote it locally this fall for next season to BC residents but it is also dependent on COVID travel restrictions within those communities.”