Greater Victoria residents lined the shores on Friday to see the first Island-class hybrid-electric ferries travel through Victoria Harbour to their temporary base at Point Hope Maritime.
Their names are top-secret for now — they won’t be revealed until mid-February, said Mark Collins, president of B.C. Ferries.
Built in Romania by Damen Shipyards Group, the vessels are the first Island-class ferries to join the fleet.
Their arrival is a “continuation of our clean futures plan,” Collins said. That program started with the Salish-class ferries, which run on natural gas or ultra-low-sulphur diesel.
Island-class ferries run on low-sulphur diesel and on batteries.
The vessels were carried by the Sun Rise transport ship from Romania through the Panama Canal and stopped at Ogden Point on Saturday.
They were taken to Point Hope on Friday because that company will be responsible for maintenance and repairs.
Late Thursday, the Sun Rise left Ogden Point for the waters off Royal Roads University, where it partially submerged. That allowed the ferries to float off into the water Friday morning and then be towed by tug to Point Hope.
Checks of the ships’ systems and sea trials will be carried out at Point Hope, where crew training will take place as well, before they are handed over to B.C. Ferries.
They will be in service by mid-year, sailing the Powell River and Texada route and the Port McNeill-Alert Bay-Sointula route.
The cost of the project for the two ferries, including construction, was $86.5 million, Collins said.
Four more Island-class ferries have been ordered and are set to be in service in 2022.
Collins said Island-class ferries will use about 20 per cent less diesel fuel than a conventional ferry, resulting in a reduction in greenhouse gases emitted.
An Island-class ferry is capable of running for about 45 minutes on battery power alone, Collins said. Batteries charge as the engine runs.
In future, B.C. Ferries is hoping to install onshore charging facilities, but doesn’t have the funds right now, he said. Those facilities would cost in the tens of millions of dollars.
The new ferries will be tested in local waters, including Saanich Inlet, where underwater noise-monitoring equipment is in place, Collins said.
Each ship will be able to carry 47 vehicles and between 300 and 450 passengers and crew. They are double-ended for ease of loading and unloading. Each has a sundeck, with shields from wind, for passengers who wish to sit outside.
Twin propellers have been designed to reduce underwater radiated noise and protect marine life, particularly endangered southern resident killer whales.
Other features include LED lighting throughout, heat-recovery systems that use waste thermal energy to heat the ships, and an exhaust system that cuts back on nitrogen-oxide emissions.