CEO – Vancouver Island Free Daily

BC Ferries CEO Mark Collins speaks to business leaders, politicians and military personnel invited to the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce’s Business Leaders Luncheon on May 12. (Kiernan Green/Press Team)
Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Williams answers questions during the chamber's business leaders luncheon on May 12.  (Kiernan Green/Press Team)Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Williams answers questions during the chamber’s business leaders luncheon on May 12. (Kiernan Green/Press Team)

At a Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce conference on Thursday, BC Ferries CEO Mark Collins outlined the challenges facing the company’s ambitious goals to electrify its fleet.

The May 12 luncheon at the Coast Victoria Hotel brought together approximately 80 politicians, military, community and business leaders from across Greater Victoria to hear featured speaker Collins’ views on the future of ferry services and the industry Vancouver Island Maritime.

BC Ferries has invested $600 million in low-carbon technology over the past eight years, he told the crowd.

“I challenge anyone in this room to find another ferry company in North America that has spent so much money. It’s something we’re really proud of.

According to Collins, BC Ferries’ five main Island Class ferries – hybrid diesel-electric vessels – will operate with nearly zero carbon emissions by 2029 if proper shore-based charging infrastructure is built at their terminals.

However, in any infrastructure project undertaken by BC Ferries, 20 to 100 government permit processes between provincial and federal departments each represent potential vetoes, he said. At least five projects are currently stalled in the permitting process.

“We’re talking to Ottawa saying, ‘Are you ready to invest in this infrastructure?’ We’ve been working on it for two or three years and we’ve been catching crickets,” he said. “Everyone wants to say ‘yes’ and one person can say ‘no’ and everyone leaves. As a society, we are not going to save the planet if we continue to operate like this.

The permit freeze also poses challenges for improving the resilience of BC’s supply chain. For example, Collins said most BC Ferries terminals were built to 1960s building codes and could be compromised in the event of a major earthquake.

“We keep them level, but you really have to start from scratch. Every time I talk about starting the Tsawwassen Terminal from scratch, I come across those 100 permits again,” Collins said.

“I’m not saying give us a pass. I say sit down with us and say what we practically need to do to make (the new infrastructure) work. We do not have time to lose. »

Even with these challenges, many applaud BC Ferries in its efforts to go green and the benefits that come with it.

“These are very exciting times for the marine industry,” said Tony Winter, Vice President of Seaspan Shipyards of Victoria and contractor for BC Ferries. “Running a sustainable operation is no longer nice to have – it’s what our customers and stakeholders expect.”

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