The 50th anniversary of government-owned ferries sailing out of Departure Bay will pass like two ships in the night.
B.C. Ferries, which originally served under the moniker British Columbia Toll Authority Ferry System, celebrated five decades of service with small onboard celebrations on most vessels that included barbecues and other festivities last year. It wasn’t until 1961 that provincial ferries operated out of Nanaimo.
“B.C. Ferries celebrated its 50th anniversary on June, 15, 2010 so we weren’t planning a separate celebration for Departure Bay,” said Deborah Marshall, B.C. Ferries spokeswoman.
On Dec. 1, 1961, the provincial government paid $6,690 to Puget Sound Navigation Company, parent firm of Black Ball Ferries Ltd., for its Horseshoe Bay-Nanaimo and Sunshine Coast services. In return, the province received docks at Departure Bay, Horseshoe Bay, Langdale, Earls Cove and Saltery Bay, as well as five vessels including Kakloke, Chinook II, Quillayutte, Bainbridge and Smokwa.
Black Ball was servicing its Departure Bay-Horseshoe Bay with Kahloke and Chinook II, which B.C. Ferries continued until 1963 when it introduced two brand new vessels, Queen of Esquimalt and Queen of Saanich, to the route.
In 1958, with both Black ball and Canadian Pacific Rail ferry fleets both experiencing work stoppages, Premier W.A.C. Bennett saw an opportunity to implement his own vision of creating an provincial ferry system.
The company began with a modest start, operating just two ships, the MV Tsawwassen and MV Sidney, between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen. It employed about 200 people.
Today, the service has swelled to one of the largest ferry services in the world with 36 vessels and 47 terminals while employing more than 3,000 people.
It transports more than 21 million people on 182,000 sailings annually.