Damen Shipyards Galati has launched two 81-meter (265.6') passenger/vehicle road ferries for the Canadian ferry operator BC Ferries (British Columbia Ferry Services Inc.). The new boats are being fitted out ahead of entering service next year. Once operational they will be capable of carrying up to 300 passengers and crew, and 47 vehicles.

The ferries have been built to Damen’s Road Ferry 8117E3 design. BC Ferries is currently undergoing a fleet renewal program that will see a number of new vessels operating in the province of British Columbia, on Canada’s Pacific coastline. The ferries will serve the Northern Gulf Islands off the coast of Vancouver, replacing vessels that are now over 50 years old.

The bid process initially attracted interest from numerous yards around the world and was designed to deliver maximum value for the users of what is one of the largest ferry operators in the world. BC Ferries is regulated by the BC Ferries Commissioner and the service levels are set by the provincial government.

“This class of vessels is very important for BC Ferries as it represents our newest vessel type, introducing a state-of-the-art, diesel-electric, hybrid propulsion system,” Paul Catsburg, director of the vessel replacement program at BC Ferries, said during launch ceremonies. “The ships’ hybrid design is important for two main reasons; firstly to improve environmental stewardship and secondly to reduce operating costs by evolving to full electric propulsion.”

Damen is working to a fixed-priced contract that provides BC Ferries with substantial guarantees related to delivery dates, performance criteria, cost certainty and quality construction. Building two identical vessels will also deliver capital and operating cost savings and additional efficiencies. After-sales warranty support will be provided by Point Hope Shipyards in Victoria, British Columbia, in an agreement with Damen.

No other specifications were released by Damen.

Meanwhile, Damen Shipyards Group has posted a net loss of 17 million euros for 2018. This is the first time in 15 years that the Dutch shipbuilder has posted a loss. Damen said that its financial situation stems from a sustained period of difficulty in a number of maritime sectors and investments it has made in its future.

Notably, despite rising oil prices, the offshore hydrocarbon sectors continue to present tough trading conditions. The harbor towage sector, a key market for Damen, is also underperforming as competition in the marketplace exerts downward pressure on prices and tug operators seek to consolidate their operations.