The newest BC Ferries vessel has a name, a sailing schedule, and a date of June 19, 2018 to set sail on its maiden voyage into the Great Bear Rainforest on Route 28.
“Route 28 is a new direct sailing route from Port Hardy to Bella Coola and will be running five times per week,” said Darin Guenette Manager, Public Affairs with BC Ferries. “The Nimpkish will continue to serve the Central Coast until the new vessel is employed, then it will be retired.”
A community engagement process with representatives from local First Nations, Ferry Advisory Committee members, BC Ferries employees and the Mid-Coast Ferry Working Group selected Northern Sea Wolf as the name for the vessel acquired by BC Ferries for the new mid-coast ferry service.
The Mid-Coast Working group, an assembly of representatives from tourism operators, local First Nations and local community representatives put in thousands of hours to lobby the government to ensure the route was replaced. They were granted confirmation last September, and have since turned their attention to getting a better schedule and more attention from BC Ferries marketing department.
It appears as though BC Ferries was listening. The schedule now runs later, encompassing the entire month of September and peak bear-viewing season as requested, with the last sailing date being October 1.
In addition, all of the sailings are direct and take place during daylight hours to offer passengers maximum opportunity to take in the scenery and wildlife of the Central Coast.
Bella Coola Valley Tourism was one of the main lobby groups for the service, and they are very happy with the announcement.
“Bella Coola Valley Tourism owes a debt of gratitude to the many individuals and groups who successfully lobbied for 2018’s direct ferry service,” said BCVT President, Tom Hermance. “We wish to thank Aboriginal Tourism of Canada, the Mid-Coast Working Group and MLA Donna Barnett who was instrumental in the formation of the Working Group.”
Hermance also took the time to praise the efforts of BCVT’s late president, Ernest Hall, who worked tirelessly on the project but sadly did not see it completed as he passed away last March.
“Much of the credit should also go to former BCVT president, Ernest Hall who wrote articles, lobbied government and actively participated in the Mid-Coast Working Group, the Ferry Advisory Committee and West Chilcotin Tourism Association. For the past five years, Mr. Hall tirelessly advocated for direct, daytime ferry service and utilizing a larger, more comfortable vessel,” said Hermance. “The Board of Directors will be honoring Ernest Hall for his many contributions to local and region tourism with a mid-valley interpretive sign and plaque in his name, which should be in place for the 2018 summer season.”
Delivery of the Northern Sea Wolf took place last week in Greece. The name is inspired by a Heiltsuk legend in which the Sea Wolf is a manifestation of the Orca. The Sea Wolf symbolizes family and loyalty and the spirit of the Sea Wolf protects those travelling their waters.
“We engaged the community to select a name for the vessel that reflects the region and celebrates the cultural heritage of local First Nations,” said Janet Carson, BC Ferries’ Vice President of Marketing. “We are pleased with their willingness to work together and come to consensus on the name. We are now preparing the Northern Sea Wolf to begin service next summer, which will support tourism to the mid-coast, taking customers directly into the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest.”
Nuxalk Chief Councillor Wally Webber, who was part of the Mid-Coast Working Group, said the new ferry will be a great addition to the Central Coast.
“This was a combined effort on the part of First Nations, tourism associations, and community members to make this happen,” said Webber. “This is good news for the Central Coast and with the right marketing it’s going to be great.”
At present the release states that the ferry will accommodate a minimum of 35 car spaces and that the fares will be consistent with the current fares on the route. There might, however, be more room as renovations are completed.
“We estimate it will carry somewhere between 35 and 60 cars with 150 passengers and crew,” said Guenette. “However, all of this is dependent on deck space, what type of renovations are done, and making sure everything complies with Transport Canada standards.”
“We are very excited for the future of the tourism industry from the North Island to the Cariboo Chilcotin coast region of B.C. The Northern Sea Wolf will fuel economic development and job creation in First Nation and other communities across the interior,” said Pat Corbett, Co-Chair of the B.C. Mid-Coast Ferry Working Group and a member of the naming task force. “Ensuring a steady flow of tourists experiencing the Great Bear Rainforest can only be done with the help of
BC Ferries and the B.C. Government, and we are thrilled at the new vessel becoming a permanent part of the transportation infrastructure of the Central Coast of B.C.”
Alison Sayers, Chair of the Central Coast Regional District, said the new ferry is exactly what the region needs.
“This is wonderful news for our region and for the entire province of BC,” said Sayers. “This ferry will allow more tourists to travel in a manner that really showcases the heart of our area, which is one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, while providing both transportation and an economic boost for those of us who call the Central Coast our home.”