BC Ferries says a controversial new cable ferry from Vancouver Island to Denman Island has officially gone into service.

The Baynes Sound Connector is the first cable ferry in the fleet and replaces the Quinitsa, the current boat on the route. Existing schedules remain the same.

According to a release from BC Ferries, the new ferry uses less than half the fuel of the Quinitsa, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 480 tonnes of CO2 equivalent annually.

"This is an exciting day for BC Ferries as we welcome the cable ferry into regular operation and see the successful outcome of implementing a technology new to coastal B.C. that has proved to  have significant cost and environmental benefits," said Mike Corrigan, BC Ferries' President and CEO.

"We are very pleased with the new ship and its strong performance, exceeding contract specifications and reducing the environmental footprint of our operations."

BC Ferries says the new ferry is much quieter than the Quinitsa, operating at 23 decibels below the usual noise level.

Impact on marine traffic

However, some residents of Denman and Hornby Islands had expressed concern over whether a cable ferry will be able to handle ocean conditions and West Coast weather — and the impact on marine traffic.

No other boats are allowed to cross over the underwater cables during the entire 10 minutes it takes for the ferry to cross between Buckley Bay to Denman Island.

Red signal lights have been installed at the cable ferry docks to indicate when other boats must stop. 

BC Ferries expects to save $1.75 million per year through reduced crew, maintenance and fuel costs on the 50-car ferry, noting that adds up to $70 million over the 40-year lifespan of the vessel.