A private equity firm says it’s “on the cusp” of launching a high-speed passenger-only ferry service linking Nanaimo with downtown Vancouver.
A joint press release from the Nanaimo Port Authority and Snuneymuxw First Nation on Thursday, Sept. 16, announced a deal with Conqora Capital Partners for a long-term lease providing access to Nanaimo Assembly Wharf for ferry berths, a terminal and parking. Conqora also has a lease licence agreement in place with TransLink for a downtown Vancouver terminal at Waterfront Station, said Rupesh Amin, Conqora CEO.
Other details, including start-up timelines, potential crossing time and fares, will be provided in the near future, he said.
Amin said his firm recognizes that the service has been discontinued in the past and hasn’t been able to start up more recently, but said Conqora has studied the sector over the last couple years and investigated why other fast-ferry attempts have been unsuccessful.
“Once we took all of that into our analysis and created our approach and our program around this on how we think we could move it forward and deliver it, we think we’ve mitigated a lot of those pitfalls and hurdles from the past,” he said.
Amin said with B.C. Ferries terminals 30-45 minutes from downtown, there’s already “significant demand” for a harbour-to-harbour service for families, for commuters and for tourists.
“You look at what’s the cost, what’s the time, what’s the convenience factor and I think we can be very effective on all those fronts,” he said.
Amin said a new foot-ferry service would capture existing demand, while demonstrating that it’s convenient, “fairly priced” and quick.
“We’ve built into our overall program and financing structure the fact that this may take a little bit of time and we’re prepared for that ramp-up period,” he said.
Conqora won’t be partnering with a ferry service operator. It has already created a leadership team to guide the management and operation of the service.
“Being out on the West Coast, there’s a lot of strong, experienced folks in the nautical/maritime sector … We’re getting good, talented people,” Amin said.
Port chairwoman Donna Hais said in the release that a foot ferry is a “vital service” and said the lease announcement is being made with “great pleasure … after many years of talking about a fast passenger service coming to Nanaimo.”
Snuneymuxw Chief Mike Wyse said the First Nation’s working relationship with Conqora and the Port of Nanaimo is made on the basis of respect and recognition for the greater good. He said a fast ferry is a “long-awaited” service in the region.
“We look forward to building on the momentum, building a stronger economy and stronger foundations of respect and co-operation,” Wyse said.
In a City of Nanaimo press release, Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog said city council was “delighted” to hear the news of the agreement.
“Establishing a fast, reliable passenger ferry service between downtown Nanaimo and Vancouver has been a priority for this community for the past decade,” Krog said. “Our strategic plan and economic development strategy both highlight the importance of this project.”
Island Ferry Services previously signed lease agreements with the port authority to try to launch foot-ferry operations. Island Ferries has no affiliation with Conqora.