Canada has had a steadfast ferry boat services sector, dating as far back as the early 1900s. There are currently over 65 vessels in use nationwide, operated by over 55 public and private companies. The use of, and need for, ferry boats in transportation and pleasure use will continue for years to come in Canada.
Although there are no planned capital investments in new ferries, upgrades to aging vessels are constant. Many of the relatively newer ferries in Canada are overdue for their 30 year maintenance checks and are requiring a variety of electrical panel and mechanical upgrades, such as replacements of the entire electrical units and circuit boards are required. Other needs include electrical components, connectors, switches, relays and batteries (deep cycle wet cells batteries for ship start up). Navigational equipment and radars require completely new models to be installed for the entire fleets, as they must operate on the same systems. Engine parts are always needed as well as all related pumps. As an example, in June 2007, the Queen of Alberni, part of the BC Ferries fleet had an extensive $32 million upgrade to prepare it for another 20 years of service.
According to the Canadian Ferry Operators Association (CFOA), Canada’s ferry boats carried over 44.8 million passengers and 16.1 million vehicles in 2006. This volume represented a 16% increase in passenger traffic and a 2% decrease in vehicle traffic over the previous year. In 2007, Canada’s largest ferry boat operator, BC Ferries, boarded approximately 8.5 million vehicles, approximately the same number as in 2006, while foot passengers numbered 21.6 million. The second largest ferry operator is NFL Ferries, operating 5 vessels on the east coast of Canada.
Shipbuilding in Canada has been strongly encouraged and some firms are subsidized by the federal government, however, privately owned companies, such as BC Ferries, are free to choose their fleet manufacturers and providers.
The federal government, via Transport Canada, is also supporting Northumberland Ferries with $5.2 million each year until 2010 in order to ensure continuing regular service from May-December as in past years. This contribution also serves to cover the maintenance and repair costs incurred by the company. Transport Canada’s large framework oversees the safety enhancement of the ferry system and its passengers. This includes developing and enforcing regulations and standards, as well as development projects and research.
By Judy Simonite