About BC Ferries

Northern Sea Wolf Project Update

Port Hardy to Bella Coola Northern Sea Wolf Vessel

The introduction of the direct service between Port Hardy and Bella Coola that BC Ferries intended to begin on June 19, later delayed to July 20, will now begin on September 16. This delay is a result of the uncertain date of completion of refit work on the Northern Sea Wolf, the vessel acquired for the service.

To give our customers travel certainty during this time, BC Ferries will redeploy the Northern Adventure at its earliest availability on September 16 to provide two round-trip direct sailings per week until the end of the summer season on October 11. The Northern Adventure is a large and proven vessel in our northern services, with speed and comfort that passengers will appreciate. September 16 is the earliest date the vessel could be made available for the Bella Coola direct service.

We want to sincerely apologize to our customers and communities affected by this delay, and explain what we are doing to ensure we have a safe and reliable vessel.

As background, in 2016, the Province announced a direct seasonal service between Port Hardy and Bella Coola that would start in the summer of 2018. To meet that timeline, BC Ferries purchased a used vessel, as a new vessel takes three years to design and construct. We searched the used vessel market and the ship we purchased, which we later named the Northern Sea Wolf, was the most suitable one available. However, it required substantial upgrades to bring it up to BC Ferries’ and Transport Canada’s standards of safety and reliability.

Ultimately, the work required to complete key elements to bring the vessel to full operational standards continue to provide unexpected challenges for our teams, and we cannot be confident in completing this work in time to provide any reasonable service this season. Both our contractors and BC Ferries teams have been working around the clock, but the overall volume of work, material challenges and final testing and acceptance cannot be safely accomplished with a high degree of certainty in time for this season.

Work on the Northern Sea Wolf will continue at Esquimalt Drydock so that the vessel can be brought into service connecting Central Coast ports for the fall and winter seasons.

Customers with reservations for direct sailings between Port Hardy and Bella Coola for dates between now and September 15 are affected by the delay, while customers with reservations on September 16 or later will be unaffected.

For affected customers, travel plans will be changed in one of two ways:

  • Either their travel will be re-booked on the indirect ferry service via Bella Bella, or;

  • Reservations will be cancelled and fully refunded. Space is limited on the indirect service and we may not be able to accommodate all travellers that want to rebook.

To service the Central Coast, we will continue to provide service on the Northern Expedition vessel between Port Hardy and Bella Bella, and on the Nimpkish between Bella Bella and Bella Coola to September 15.

Customers whose bookings are cancelled will be offered the option to sail after September 15. If this is not convenient for them, they will receive complimentary travel between Port Hardy and Bella Coola in the 2019 service season.

Direct service between Port Hardy and Bella Coola will be provided starting September 16 using the Northern Adventure and will continue through October 11. The Northern Adventure has a capacity of 87 vehicles with additional amenities including cabins, the Coastal Cafe and the Raven Lounge.

We recognize this has a major impact on our customers that have reserved travel, the communities where they would be visiting and staying, and to tourism businesses in the North Island and Central Coast.

If you booked directly with BC Ferries on sailings between now and September 15, a representative from our Customer Care team will be contacting you.

If customers have booked through a tour operator or travel agent, they will be in touch with you directly to review your options and confirm your alternate travel arrangements.

Once again, we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this delay has caused our customers and the communities. We look forward to having the Northern Sea Wolf service the Central Coast for years to come as soon when it is ready.

View the modified schedule »

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the Northern Sea Wolf delayed until summer 2019?
Ultimately, the work required to complete key elements to bring the vessel to full operational standards continue to provide unexpected challenges for our teams, and we cannot be confident in completing this work in time to provide any reasonable service this season. Both our contractors and BC Ferries teams have been working around the clock, but the overall volume of work, material challenges and final testing and acceptance cannot be safely accomplished with a high degree of certainty in time for this season.

Work on the Northern Sea Wolf will continue at Esquimalt Drydock so that the vessel can be brought into service connecting Central Coast ports for the fall and winter seasons.

I have a confirmed reservation between Port Hardy and Bella Coola sometime between now and September 15th. What are my options?
Customers with a confirmed reservation between now and September 15, will be contacted by our Customer Service team to discuss alternative travel arrangements:

  • Either their travel will be re-booked on the indirect ferry service via Bella Bella, or;

  • Reservations will be cancelled and fully refunded. Space is limited on the indirect service and we may not be able to accommodate all travellers that want to rebook. 

Customers whose bookings are cancelled will be offered the option to sail after September 15. If this is not convenient for them, they will receive complimentary travel between Port Hardy and Bella Coola in the 2019 service season.

If customers have booked through a tour operator or travel agent, they will be in touch with you directly to review your options and confirm your alternate travel arrangements.

I have a confirmed reservation between Port Hardy and Bella Coola sometime between September 16th and October 11th. What are my options?
Customers with a confirmed reservation between September 16th and October 11th are not affected by this delay. You will be travelling on board the Northern Adventure between Port Hardy and Bella Coola.

I plan to travel between Port Hardy and Bella Coola sometime between now and October 11th. What are my options?
Customers planning to travel between Port Hardy and Bella Coola between now and October 11th will have the following options:

  • Between now and September 15th, customers can travel on board the Northern Expedition from Port Hardy to Bella Bella, and the Nimpkish from Bella Bella to Bella Coola (or reverse) based on space available. Note: due to the popularity of this route and limited space available on board the Nimpkish, customers may be waitlisted. An alternative option for travellers is the Inside Passage route between Port Hardy and Prince Rupert.

  • Between September 16th and October 11th, customers can travel on board the Northern Adventure on the direct service route from Port Hardy to Bella Coola. The Northern Adventure will provide two round-trip direct sailings per week.

What is the vehicle and passenger capacity on board the Nimpkish compared to the Northern Sea Wolf?
The Northern Sea Wolf has a capacity of 35 vehicles and 150 passengers and crew. The Nimpkish has a capacity of 12 vehicles and 95 passengers and crew and has fewer amenities than the Northern Sea Wolf. Due to the vessel transfer at Bella Bella, service on the Northern Expedition and Nimpkish will be a longer journey. Please refer to schedules for forecasted departures and arrivals. View the modified schedule. View the modified schedule.

What is the vehicle and passenger capacity on board the Northern Adventure compared to the Northern Sea Wolf?
The Northern Sea Wolf has a capacity of 35 vehicles and 150 passengers and crew. The Northern Adventure has a capacity of 87 vehicles and 640 passengers and crew. There are additional amenities including cabins, the Coastal Cafe and the Raven Lounge. Please refer to schedules for forecasted departures and arrivals. View the modified schedule.

Connecting travellers with the region's culture
Artist selection process for Northern Sea Wolf

BC Ferries, in partnership with the First Peoples’ Cultural Council (FPCC), has commissioned two Indigenous artists to design artwork that will adorn the Northern Sea Wolf. The two artists selected to design artwork for the Northern Sea Wolf are Richard Hunt of the Kwakwaka'wakw Nation in T’sakis (Fort Rupert, B.C.) and Danika Naccarella of the Nuxalk Nation in Bella Coola, B.C.

FPCC issued a call for artists last December and invited artists to submit their portfolios for consideration. In February, a jury of Indigenous artists respected in their fields, joined by representatives from BC Ferries, shortlisted the submissions. The adjudication committee based their decision on artistic excellence, artistic style, and ability to reflect the character and life of the waters the vessel will traverse.

FPCC then commissioned the shortlisted artists to develop design concepts. This April, they selected Danika Naccarella and Richard Hunt’s designs. Danika and Richard are working with BC Ferries to prepare their designs for final refinement and application. The designs will be revealed to the public once they are completed.

Northern Sea Wolf Photo Gallery

A freshly painted <i><i>Northern Sea Wolf</i></i> View from the stern of the <i><i>Northern Sea Wolf</i></i>
A freshly painted Northern Sea Wolf View from the stern

The Northern Sea Wolf

Revered for their dedication to their packs, the Sea Wolf is believed to be a manifestation of the Orca and has come to symbolize family and loyalty in First Nations culture. Today, it is said that the spirit of the Sea Wolf protects those travelling their oceans. And now you can explore the natural beauty of their habitat, by stepping into a world of rugged glacial fjords, towering old-growth rainforests and rich First Nations history. Through picturesque waters of the Inside Passage, home to sea lions and humpback whales, your journey will take you 10 hours north from Port Hardy to Bella Coola, and into the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest.

Port Hardy to Bella Coola details

*Automobile Equivalent (AEQ) is used to determine vessel capacity based on a standard vehicle measure of 6.1 x 2.6 meters, roughly equal to a full-size family vehicle.

**Schedule and fares are subject to change.