Another summer will come and go without foot ferry service between Nanaimo and Vancouver.
Island Ferry Services confirmed that it will not be up and running this summer, but stressed that it is still active and moving forward in trying to start up the harbour-to-harbour passenger-only ferry service.
“Are we going to start this summer? No, we’re not…” said David Marshall, director of operations with Island Ferries. “Even if the ships are here on time, we’ve still got to do some work in each of the two terminals in order to start this summer. So we’re not going to get there.”
The barrier right now is money, as Island Ferries says it needs one more financial partner.
“We’ve secured a good portion of the funding that was required to finalize our financing, but frankly, we were set back about two months ago when one source that we really anticipated to come through didn’t come through,” Marshall said.
It was a surprise and a disappointment, he said, but noted that Island Ferries has remained “active” in trying to secure the necessary funding, and said seed investors continue to support Island Ferries through the process. Marshall said the company is currently in “due diligence” with two separate funding sources, either of which could fill the current gap. He added that neither of those parties are levels of government.
Marshall said Island Ferries’ most recent work has involved agreements on the Vancouver side.
“We’ve finished our work with TransLink, which was outstanding. We have completed all of the required environmental assessments and we’ve got the necessary permit from the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority,” he said.
He said none of the agreements are dependent on Island Ferries meeting certain deadlines, saying, “our partners are anxious for us to get started because they will realize a significant amount of revenue, too.”
There is still physical work to do at both planned terminals, but Marshall suggested that engineering work wouldn’t begin until there is more certainty about the project timelines.
He said he thinks there’s a healthy, growing travel market and he said Island Ferries is “very much in the game” and optimistic.
“There are some critics out there and I understand that. There’s a lot of folks that want to see us get going and we want to support them,” Marshall said. “And somewhere between our cheerleaders and our critics, we’ll find our investors.”
Mayor Leonard Krog, at a city council meeting last month, said all levels of government have been working with the proponents and added that there is general agreement in the city about the importance of foot-ferry service.
“We don’t have a chain, so to speak, unless we get that as the link…” he said. “Many investors and people who wish to locate businesses and create businesses here because of the high cost of real estate and accommodations, etc., in the Lower Mainland, are looking to Nanaimo and one of the first questions they ask is, ‘when will the fast ferry or the foot passenger ferry be up and running?’ There is strong enthusiasm.”