BC Ferries awards dual-fuel conversion contract

Two vessels to be converted to dual-fuel so they can operate on liquefied natural gas (LNG).

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Updated on 29 Mar 2016 11:02 GMT

BC Ferries has awarded Remontowa Ship Repair Yard S.A. of Gdansk, Poland, a contract totalling $140 million to conduct the Spirit Class mid-life upgrades (MLUs), which includes the conversion of two vessels to dual-fuel so they can operate on liquefied natural gas (LNG), beginning in 2017 and completing in 2019.

Commenting on the deal, BC Ferries explained in a statement that one shipyard from British Columbia, Seaspan's Vancouver Shipyard, was among the three shipyards shortlisted and invited to participate in the request for proposal (RFP) process, however the Canadian firm is said to have withdrawn.

"Remontowa Ship Repair Yard is the largest ship repair yard in Poland and ranks amongst the largest in Europe. Annually, approximately 200 ship projects are conducted there. The shipyard has a strong record for delivering the required engineering and production capabilities for complex large scale conversion projects on schedule. The company is well experienced and proven with LNG fuelled ships. All of these elements factored heavily into the decision of contract award," BC Ferries said.

Mark Wilson, BC Ferries' Vice President of Engineering, commented: "Last fiscal year, we spent approximately $118 million on diesel fuel of which the two Spirit Class vessels consumed approximately 16 per cent. The conversion of the two largest ships in the fleet along with the three new dual-fuel Salish-Class vessels currently under construction will go a long way to help with fare affordability for our customers as LNG costs significantly less than marine diesel."

"In addition to the financial benefits of LNG, BC Ferries is committed to converting to more environmentally-friendly fuel sources to improve our environmental footprint," said Wilson. "By utilizing LNG to fuel the Spirit-Class vessels, we expect to reduce CO2 emissions by 12,000 tonnes annually, which is the equivalent of taking approximately 2500 vehicles off the road per year."

In order to help make the project financially viable, BC Ferries pursued funding under incentive programs to help offset any incremental capital costs associated with the use of LNG. The company has signed an agreement, subject to certain conditions, to receive up to $10 million contribution from FortisBC Energy Inc. as part of the Natural Gas for Transportation (NGT) incentive funding. This funding will be used to partially offset the capital cost of converting our two Spirit Class vessels to dual-fuel capability.

Planned renewal of navigation equipment, propulsion equipment components including rudders, steering system, bow thrusters and propeller blades will also occur during the MLUs. Installation of LED lighting and more efficient air conditioning equipment will reduce energy consumption.

The Spirit of British Columbia is scheduled to be the first ship to undergo the MLU and LNG conversion process between the autumn of 2017 and the spring of 2018, and the Spirit of Vancouver Island's conversion is due to take place between the autumn of 2018 and the spring of 2019.

This schedule will allow for these two vessels, the largest in the fleet, to be in operation during the summer months when traffic is at its peak.

The Spirit of British Columbia was built in 1993 and the Spirit of Vancouver Island in 1994. Both ships service the Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay run - the busiest route in the fleet. BC Ferries says it plans to operate the two vessels for another 25 years.

Under contract to the Province of British Columbia, BC Ferries is the service provider responsible for the delivery of safe, efficient and dependable ferry service along coastal British Columbia.