A rocky start has not appeared to have diminished demand for BC Ferries newest route aboard the Northern Sea Wolf.
“In general, there is strong demand for the service, with at least half of the capacity of the vessel reserved on 83 percent of the sailings,” said Darin Guenette, Manager, BC Ferries Public Affairs.
The ferry has come under scrutiny for being $20 million over budget and over a year late; it will cost $76 million by the time it gets into the water, instead of the $55.7 million initially budgeted. But this doesn’t appear to have deterred passengers.
“Space is still available for vehicle bookings on all but two sailings, with five other sailings booked to the level of at least 90 percent full,” said Guenette. “Thus, for people who are still considering travel on this route, we would encourage them to contact the booking team for travel planning assistance.”
The new vessel will hold approximately 35 vehicles and 150 passengers and crew and features artwork by Nuxalk artist Danica Naccarella.
In conjunction with the official start of the 2019 seasonal direct service between Port Hardy and Bella Coola, BC Ferries is hosting a public Open House from 2 to 4 p.m. at the terminal in Bella Coola on June 2. The arrival and departure times have also changed to daylight hours only, a huge improvement for both guests and tourism operators.
The 77-metre Northern Sea Wolf was originally built in Greece in 2000, then bought by BC Ferries for $12.6 million in 2017.
At the time, it was thought to cost $55.7 million to both buy and retrofit the vessel.
However, BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall said “major upgrade work to bring the vessel up to BC Ferries and Transport Canada’s standards took longer than originally anticipated,” and boosted up the cost to a total of $63.4 million for retrofit work.
The vessel has been completely modernized with a brand new galley, bridge, electrical generators, emergency generator, HVAC system, washrooms, elevator, chair lifts, cafeteria and passenger accommodation area. Guenette said that “it will be a worthy addition to the Northern fleet for at least another 20 years.”
This past spring, BC Ferries completed approximately $10 million of upgrades to the berths at Ocean Falls, Bella Coola, Shearwater and Bella Bella in order to accommodate the Northern Sea Wolf.
The federal government has contributed $15.1 million in funding, leaving the company with a $60.9 million price tag.