Nanaimo partners with port authority on foot ferry project

NANAIMO – City announced support for a joint request for proposal process with the port authority to look for a passenger ferry service.

The City of Nanaimo will join the search for passenger ferry operators, despite an earlier agreement with Island Ferries.

Nanaimo Port Authority and the city will team up on a request for proposals for a foot-passenger ferry between Nanaimo and Vancouver.

The decision comes two weeks after the port authority announced it would seek foot ferry proposals, recognizing there was community demand for the service and other potential operators than Island Ferries. Island Ferries’ lease to use city property for its catamarans has also expired.

According to Tracy Samra, interim city manager, the port board and city council met Monday and key in the decision to join forces was the acknowledgment that neither party will succeed in isolation.

Bernie Dumas, president and CEO of the Nanaimo Port Authority, called the partnership essential in finding a quality operator and said it’s a good direction to go to see if the service can get going sooner than later.

It’s been five years and Island Ferries is still trying to get its financial package in play, said Dumas, who notes the port is ‘very sensitive’ to the company’s plight and the company will have an equal opportunity to participate in the RFP process.

“It’s a difficult decision, but for us we felt that the community is pushing and wanting the service earlier than later and there’s other companies out there who perhaps have all their finance and operational things in play,” he said. “I know [Island Ferries] are upset but basically we can’t wait forever.”

Island Ferries spokesman David Marshall, who expressed disappointment in the port’s earlier announcement, said this joint RFP still puts its work in jeopardy. The company has been working closely with a final investor for a number of weeks, which the port and city were aware of, he said.

But he also said the company respects the city’s decision and plans to look at the RFP.

The city and port authority will discuss a location for the ferry service and reach out to other communities, like Parksville and Duncan, to discuss the service.