Foot ferry deal win for both sides

With any money-making venture, risk is involved.

So when Nanaimo city council was approached by Island Ferries on a partnership opportunity to provide passenger-only ferry service between the Harbour City and downtown Vancouver, politicians were right to be wary.

Island Ferries promised revenue sharing to the tune of $700,000 annually after the first five years of operation. In return, the private company wanted access to city-owned land, which would have to be serviced with water.

The offer of revenue sharing was tempting, but ultimately city council feared it would take on the risk liability if it accepted all that money.

Instead, the city offered to service the land on the waterfront at a cost of $125,000, and agree to a lease of $60,000 annually.

By being a landlord only, the city effectively has the servicing – which would have been done eventually – paid for by a private company.

The city also gets its first tenant in a transit hub designed for the Wellcox property, a piece of formerly industrial waterfront land Nanaimo purchased last year to combine bus, ferry and potentially rail connections.

The city doesn’t share in the profits, but it doesn’t share in the risk either.

The solution is a win-win for both parties. But the biggest winner of all are Island residents.

The $65-million venture is poised to start ferrying passengers in the fall, as long as the company can get financing and lease agreements with Vancouver’s Translink in place, and will provide a link to the Lower Mainland when rider fares at B.C. Ferries continue to climb with no end in sight.

Plus, it allows additional mainland tourists and visitors easy access to Nanaimo’s downtown – something the cruise ship terminal promised but has so far failed to do.

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