About BC Ferries

BC Ferries Proudly Celebrates 50 Years of Service

Our
History
Before BC Ferries Start Your Engines Welcome to the New BC Ferries Browse our Photo Gallery

Start Your Engines

After a great deal of hard work by engineers, shipbuilders, and construction workers, our new ferry system starts out with two vessels and one route. The service links Victoria, the provincial capital on Vancouver Island, with the City of Vancouver.

Points of departure are Swartz Bay on the Victoria side, and Tsawwassen, which is south of Vancouver. (At Tsawwassen, a two-mile long causeway and an artificial island have to be created before the ferry terminal can be built.)

We first operate under the hefty moniker "British Columbia Toll Authority Ferry System," and our mission is fairly straightforward: to provide a safe and dependable marine transportation link. Over the years our name may become less of a mouthful, but the scope and complexity of our operation expands exponentially.

Tsawwassen as built 1960 The M.V. Tsawwassen and the M.V. Sidney begin regular service on June 15, 1960, one of the windiest, rainiest days of early summer. But the vessels keep to their schedules and carry plenty of passengers. In subsequent months, the weather becomes something of an ally. Airports are fogged in much of the time, and many people who would normally fly across the water end up busing it out to our terminals. They soon learn that the ferry ride takes only slightly longer than flight, but at a fraction of the cost. These discoveries, plus the quality of the travel experience, prove to be very good for business.

By the end of year one, our fledgling system manages to turn a profit, and growth follows quickly.

Stretch and Lift

As our first decade progresses, passenger numbers continue to rise. So a decision is made to add to our inventory of deck space by engineering some enlargements.

The first part of BC Ferries' now famous "stretch and lift" program begins in 1970 when four of our major vessels are cut down the middle so that an 84-foot midsection can be "spliced" in. Similar operations have been performed on small boats, but this is the first time large ships have undergone such extensive alterations.

Five years later, the "lift" part of our "stretch and lift" program is implemented. Four major vessels are hauled back into dry dock and sliced horizontally. The two halves are separated from each other, so that a new upper car deck can be slid into place, thus giving birth to our "V" Class ships and concluding one of the boldest projects in the history of marine engineering.

Stretch and LiftAs the fourth decade progresses, that tradition of practical innovation continues with the construction of two massive Spirit Class vessels and the creation of the fleet's first aluminum-hulled fast catamaran vessels- the PacifiCats.

At the beginning of our fifth decade, BC Ferries retires and then sells the Queen of Sidney, one of the first two ships constructed for BC Ferries. The decade also sees the decommissioning of several other ferries, including the Queen of Tsawwassen in 2008.

During the summer of 2000, BC Ferries introduces reservations on the Internet. Several months later, in November, we reach the ½ billionth passenger milestone, a phenomenal figure to get your head around.

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