British Columbia

New Salish Orca ferry en route to B.C.

The first of three new vessels for the BC Ferries fleet is on its way from Poland. The Salish Class vessels will be the first BC Ferries powered by liquid natural gas.

Salish Class vessels will be powered by liquid natural gas

The Salish Orca has left a shipyard in Gdansk, Poland, for B.C. The journey is expected to take up to 55 days. (BC Ferries)

The first of three new vessels in the BC Ferries fleet is now en route from Poland.

The Salish Class ships will be the first in B.C to be powered by liquid natural gas.

The Salish Orca started the journey of more than 10,000 nautical miles Tuesday from a shipyard in Gdansk, Poland, to B.C.

The trip will take between 45 and 55 days.

The Salish Orca will replace the aging Queen of Burnaby that serves the route between Powell River on the Sunshine Coast and Comox on Vancouver Island.

"We expect this vessel to be extremely reliable," said BC Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall.

"The Burnaby has served us very well for many years but we are very excited to get a brand new vessel on the run." 

The Salish Orca will be the first vessel powered by liquid natural gas to operate as part of the BC Ferries fleet.

"We've been doing a lot of work with Fortis B.C.," Marshall said. "We don't expect any hiccups with it."

Following a training period for the crew and public information sessions, the Salish Orca will be put into service in the spring of 2017.

The Salish Orca will be the first vessel in the BC Ferries fleet to use liquid natural gas. (BC Ferries)

Relief in Powell River

News the Salish Orca is headed to B.C. comes as a relief in Powell River where people rely heavily on ferry service, said Mayor Dave Formosa.

Mechanical problems on the aging Queen of Burnaby caused traffic chaos this summer for people trying to reach the Sunshine Coast.

Weather has also been a problem for the 51-year-old ship.

"Because of its age and unreliability, its ability to take weather and wind was downgraded from the engineering specs of the ship," he said. "So in certain wind when a ship would travel, ours wouldn't."

Formosa said people travelling for medical appointments and local business people who count on deliveries of goods have been most affected.

The other two Salish Class ferries that are being built in Poland are scheduled for delivery to B.C. next summer and will service the Southern Gulf Islands.

About the Author

Megan Thomas

Reporter

Megan Thomas is a reporter for CBC in Victoria, B.C. She covers stories from around Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast. Follow her on Twitter @meganTcbc.