The BC Ferries Commissioner has approved BC Ferries’ application to acquire a suitable used vessel to start a seasonal direct ferry service between Port Hardy and Bella Coola to support Aboriginal tourism and the mid-coast economy. BC Ferries is now finalizing an agreement to buy the used Greek ferry, Aqua Spirit, built in 2000 and with a capacity 35 vehicles and 150 passengers and crew. BC Ferries takes possession of the ship in August 2017 and the purchase price for the vessel was 8.75 million Euros (with conversion approximately $12.6 million CAD).
It will undergo major upgrades from the fall of 2017 through the spring of 2018. All passenger areas will be refurbished including lounges, the galley, washrooms and outer deck spaces. Mechanical modifications will include overhauling the main engines and generators; regulatory surveys; upgrading machinery and navigation equipment; and replacement of lifesaving equipment. The vessel already fits BC Ferries’ northern berths. Several smaller terminals will be modified to the northern configuration to accommodate the new ship. Summer service is scheduled to begin in 2018 and will run from mid-June through midSeptember on the direct route between Port Hardy and Bella Coola five times per week.
The voyage between Port Hardy and Bella Coola will take approximately 10 hours and will be conducted in the daytime to maximize tourism potential. BC Ferries will be engaging with the mid-coast community regarding the exact sailing schedule, naming of the vessel and onboard amenities. More details will be announced in the coming weeks.