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The Island Class

Efficient, quiet, battery-hybrid ferries

 

Latest news

We recently revealed the names of our third and fourth Island Class ferries at a special naming ceremony at Victoria’s Point Hope Maritime. Island Nagalis and Island K’ulut’a are the newest ferries to enter the fleet, allowing two-ship service to begin on the Campbell River – Quadra Island route in 2022.

We selected the names following a community engagement process. The names celebrate the important connection to some of the coastal communities the ferries will serve. In both Kwak̓wala and Lik̓wala, two of the Kwakwaka’wakw dialects, Nagalis means “dawn on the land” and K’ulut’a is the name for Porpoise. We are pleased to partner with the First Peoples’ Cultural Council (FPCC) to commission original artwork from Indigenous artists for the interior of the ferries (details to be announced in the fall).

Learn more about Island Class ferries coming to the fleet in 2022

Visit our Island Class playlist on YouTube to learn more about these new state-of-the-art ferries and watch key milestones of the Island Class ferry replacement program.

Let's talk about inclement weather

Our new Island Class ferries are built to handle rough seas and stormy conditions, even on the Campbell River – Quadra Island route where we tend to experience some of the roughest conditions and strongest currents.  Did you know…

  • BC Ferries has a weather matrix for each ship that determines when weather becomes a factor in cancellations.
     
  • The Island Class will operate under the same weather parameters as the current ferries, depending on route.
     
  • The Island Class has a very similar weather matrix to our larger Spirit and Coastal class ferries that operate on our major routes.
     
  • While some of the ferries the Island Class will replace have more installed horsepower, this is not the only indicator of sufficient power to operate safely and efficiently in challenging conditions.
     
  • Even though our ships are capable in many instances of managing the transit, a crossing in rough seas would be extremely uncomfortable for our customers, or weather conditions at the terminals may make it unsafe to approach the dock. 
     
  • Operational experience with the Island Class on our other routes, along with a number of simulations and live trials, have indicated the ferries have more than sufficient power and maneuverability to handle the weather and currents we typically experience.

Two Island Class ferries—the Island Nagalis and Island K’ulut’a—made the approximately 10,700 nautical mile transoceanic journey under their own power from Romania to British Columbia earlier this summer. This involved crossing the Atlantic Ocean, navigating the Panama Canal and travelling up the coast of North America. These voyages demonstrate the ability of Island Class ships to handle weather.
 
Standardizing our fleet
The making of a more efficient ferry system overall

BC Ferries continually looks for ways to run the ferry system more efficiently. One approach we are taking to achieve this goal is ferry standardization.

At the moment, we have 17 different types of ferries, and crew training and maintenance is unique to each one. We have adopted a strategy to standardize more ferries, with a plan to reduce ferry types to just six. Standard, identical ships save money and improve safety. Identical ships simplify ferry swaps when one is required to be removed to perform maintenance activities. The bridge and engine rooms are outfitted with the same equipment, reducing training costs. Standardized equipment reduces maintenance costs and allows employees to operate the same familiar gear, enhancing safety for everyone.

Customers also benefit from more consistency. Amenities, outdoor decks and seating configuration are the same on standardized ships.

The Salish Class are BC Ferries’ first class of ferries designed to be identical, with the Island Class our next set of identical ships. By the end of 2022, BC Ferries plans to have six Island Class ferries servicing four routes.

Island Aurora and Island Discovery entered service in 2020 on the Port McNeill – Alert Bay – Sointula and the Powell River – Texada Island routes. This summer, the third and fourth Island Class ferries, Island Nagalis and Island K’ulut’a, completed the transoceanic journey from the shipyard in Romania to Victoria, British Columbia. Once in service in 2022, these ferries will allow for two-ship service to begin on the Campbell River – Quadra Island route. The fifth and sixth Island Class ferries in the series are on their way, and will allow for two-ship service to begin on the Nanaimo Harbour – Gabriola Island route in 2022.

While these four routes will be serviced by Island Class ferries, the specific ships themselves won’t be permanently assigned to a route. Standardization allows us to move ferries around to replace each other during planned maintenance periods or as required. We refer to this as interoperability – identical ferries can be used interchangeably. When identical ferries sub in for each other, the only difference that customers will notice is the name on the hull of the vessels.

BC Ferries is already realizing the benefits of standardization. In advance of the delivery of new Island Class ferries, we trained our crew and conducted dock fits by using the Island Class ferries already in service. By doing this, we reduced operational, training and maintenance costs – proof that standardizing our fleet is a win for both customers and the company, making for a more efficient ferry system overall.

Maximizing space with gallery decks
Gallery Decks – a design feature on the Island Class ferries 

One of the ways the new Island Class ferries maximize the use of space is with a gallery deck – an upper-level car deck connected by an on and off ramp on either end. Island Class gallery decks hold about 15 cars.

When the Island Class ferries begin to provide two-ship service on the Campbell River – Quadra Island and the Gabriola Island – Nanaimo routes in 2022, customers will experience a different loading procedure. Before every sailing, BC Ferries' experienced loading officers will assess the traffic situation at the terminal. Based on sight lines, it is not always possible to see all vehicles in the queue before they approach the terminal, so the crew generally plans to load the ship anticipating a full sailing. As vehicles drive up to the vessel, crew will decide which vehicles to load on the main vehicle deck or the gallery deck.  Generally, smaller vehicles will be directed up the ramp. While the ramp may appear narrow, the loading officers are experts and you can trust that your vehicle will fit. We have successfully loaded large SUVs and pickup trucks on the gallery decks without issue.

Following the direction of the loading officers will result in a smooth and efficient process, keeping the ships on schedule. As a bonus (subject to operational or emergency vehicle requirements), gallery deck traffic disembark before the main deck traffic, continuing their journeys ahead of others.

The gallery decks make the best use of space on the vessel, maximize the number of vehicles we can move on each sailing and are an important design feature as we provide safe, reliable, efficient and sustainable ferry service to coastal British Columbia.
 
Gallery decks in use on Island Discovery servicing the Powell River – Texada Island route.
A message from BC Ferries' CEO

Hello everyone,

Those I work closely with know I value sharing information to improve understanding. At BC Ferries, we share information about how we plan, act, think, and communicate to create a better understanding of what to expect from the ferry system. I believe the more everyone understands how the ferry system works, the more everyone, including customers, can help when there are challenges facing service to communities.

The introduction of the new Island Class is a case in point. A new ship is the culmination of literally thousands of decisions made over many years. Without knowing the backstory on some of those choices, travellers can be left wondering about why things are the way they are. For example, why do the Island Class ferries have two propellers instead of four? Why does the ship have a ramp up and over the lounge instead of all being on one deck? Why are we putting two smaller Island Class ferries on a route rather than one larger ship? Where is the coffee machine? What happens when one ship goes into refit? Why do communities have a say in some choices and not in others? What’s it like on board an Island Class ferry as it travels from the shipyard to British Columbia?

Knowing what goes on behind the scenes helps create understanding between our operation and the communities we serve. Starting in July, I invite you to look for regular articles on bcferries.com and in select publications, and join us on BC Ferries’ social media channels:

  • Facebook facebook.com/BCFerries
  • Twitter twitter.com/bcferries
  • Instagram instagram.com/bcferries
  • LinkedIn ca.linkedin.com/company/bc-ferries, and
  • YouTube youtube.com/bcferries

We’re calling this series, “The Island Class” and we’ll be providing information on topics about these new ferries, coming soon to the Campbell River – Quadra Island and Nanaimo Harbour – Gabriola Island routes. Each post will talk about an aspect of our operations so you know more about what we do and why. You will get the short story and the inside story, and we may even answer some questions you didn’t know you had. You will also hear from the BC Ferries’ crew on board the vessel on its transatlantic voyage to Victoria.

I hope you’ll join us on this journey and find the information of interest. We also want to know the questions you have about BC Ferries’ new Island Class. We invite you to send your questions, comments and ideas to vesselreplacement@bcferries.com and check our dedicated Island Class page on bcferries.com for updates, too. Stay tuned – “The Island Class” launches in July.


Mark Collins
President & CEO
BC Ferries

Two propellers doing the work of four

Two propellers doing the work of four – a change in design for the Island Class ferries

The new Island Class is a diesel-electric battery hybrid ferry that has many similarities to a Toyota Prius car’s power train. In the Island Class, energy is drawn from the ship’s batteries or diesel engine, through propulsion motors to power two 360-degree steerable propeller units called thrusters. Each thruster can be turned in any direction to provide propulsion power and steering control, which gives the ship excellent maneuverability.

The Island Class have only two thrusters instead of four, such as what exists on the Powell River Queen or the Quinsam because marine technology has advanced considerably since these vessels were built in the sixties and seventies. Modern propeller units are more reliable and can transmit more power, generating thrust more efficiently compared to the older technology. The Island Class design takes advantage of these advances in technology.

A number of benefits exist using this new, two-thruster design. Every propeller produces thrust, but also creates a resistance force, or drag, which can act to slow the ship. Four propeller units create twice as much drag as two units. Drag increases fuel consumption, so we try to reduce it whenever possible. Since two larger propellers are hydro-dynamically more efficient than four smaller ones, further fuel savings are possible. Underwater propellers are noisy, and four thrusters can be expected to be noisier than two. Reducing the number of propellers helps to make the underwater world a little quieter for marine life.

While a ship with four thrusters can often continue operating even if one is out of service and a two-thruster ship may not, the high reliability of today’s marine machinery significantly reduces the risk of service interruption. Consider that just a few years ago, jet aircraft had four engines, but now commonly have only two because they are highly reliable. The same principle applies with propellers on the Island Class: today’s machinery allows reliable operation and delivers important benefits for the natural world around us.

About the Island Class

The Island Class ferries carry 47 vehicles and are double-ended for easy loading and unloading. The ferries also feature wide vehicle lanes, dedicated pedestrian paths, and bicycle parking spaces.

Passenger lounges and washrooms are situated on the main deck for easy access. Lounge areas have been built with your comfort in mind, with a variety of seating choices and charging stations. A sundeck with seating, windbreaks, and an accessible washroom will provide a comfortable space to sit outdoors.

The Island Class are battery-equipped ships designed for full electric operation. The ships are fitted with hybrid technology that bridges the gap until shore charging infrastructure becomes available. From the exterior details to the engines, the design of the new vessels reduces underwater radiated noise, lowers emissions and improves the customer experience on board.

The Island Class ferries will service the following routes:
 
  • Powell River – Texada Island: Island Discovery
  • Port McNeill – Alert Bay – Sointula: Island Aurora
  • Campbell River – Quadra Island (two ferries) in 2022: Island Nagalis and Island K’ulut’a
  • Nanaimo Harbour – Gabriola Island (two ferries) in 2022
 

Key features

  • Electric power and propulsion systems
  • Battery-hybrid power systems improve efficiency and reduce emissions during interim operations
  • Exhaust system reduces NOx emissions through selective catalytic reduction
  • Twin propellers designed to reduce underwater radiated noise
  • Designed to be fully accessible without elevators, reducing energy consumption, operating cost and complexity
  • Vessel completely outfitted with LED lighting
  • Heat recovery system uses waste thermal energy to heat vessel
  • Low friction and biofouling resistant hull coating reduces fuel consumption
  • Comfortable passenger lounges and solariums for great views along the journey
 

We are standardizing our fleet

The Island Class ferries are another step towards standardizing our fleet. Standardization helps us:
 
  • Dramatically improve resiliency in our fleet by allowing us to move ferries around to replace each other during refits, repairs, and unexpected challenges.
  • Provide a more consistent travel experience for our customers.
  • Reduce logistical, operational, training, and maintenance costs.
 

Questions, concerns, or need more information?

Send us an email at vesselreplacement@bcferries.com.