Central Coast Update - Northern Sea Wolf

July 10, 2018

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 vessel acquired for the service, the Northern Sea Wolf.

Giving our customers travel certainty during this time, BC Ferries will redeploy the MV Northern Adventure at its earliest availability on September 16 to provide two round-trip 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, and 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 who have reservations for direct sailings between Port Hardy and Bella Coola for dates between July 20 and September 15 are affected by the delay, while customers with reservations on September 16 or later are not affected.

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 all travellers may not be accommodated.

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 from July 20 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 July 20 and September 15, a representative from our Customer Care team will be contacting you over the coming week. 

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.

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