Ferry from downtown Vancouver to Nanaimo launching in 2023, company says

A new company has promised to deliver high-speed ferry service between downtown Vancouver and Nanaimo – and the CEO believes the public will be pleasantly surprised by the fare prices.

Alastair Caddick told CTV News he’s confident Vancouver Island Ferry Company will launch in summer 2023, with two passenger-only catamaran vessels he boasts will be capable of crossing the Strait of Georgia in around 70 minutes.

Caddick said he’s well aware the public has been strung along with similar promises before, but he believes the growing populations on both the mainland and island have finally reached a point that such a service would be sustainable.

“What we know is there is demand. We know there’s strong interest,” he said.

“We’ve got the right investors on board, which allows us to make a long-term commitment to this route. We’ve got the right partnerships with the Snuneymuxw First Nation, the Nanaimo Port Authority, Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre and the municipality of Nanaimo. We’re really excited.”

While the company is not announcing the fares until next year, Caddick teased that the service would be less expensive than boarding a BC Ferries sailing with a vehicle.

“I think people will find it affordable in a surprising way,” he added.

Vancouver Island Ferry Company has already commissioned its inaugural fleet from Dutch-based Damen Group, and said each vessel will have a 350-passenger capacity.

Caddick said the brand-new ferries will offer a “modern” travel experience that he compared to flying.

“If you’re travelling on a plane and you book online and you’ve got your QR code on your smartphone and you don’t need a paper ticket and you reserve your seat in advance – that’s what we mean by modern,” he said.

In a statement, Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog said the new ferry service would bring “increased economic activity and easier access to everything that is important to us.”

“It means business and commerce can flow smoothly across the Salish Sea – which is good for Nanaimo, good for Vancouver Island and a really important step in securing a prosperous future for all of us,” Krog said.

The idea of a fast ferry connecting Vancouver to Nainamo has been floated for years, and a similar service from Vancouver to Victoria folded in early 2020

But Caddick said this latest venture, which began last year with the signing of a three-decade agreement with the Nanaimo Port Authority, will prove the viability of the concept once and for all.

“There’s a lot of things that you need to put in place before you can confidently say, ‘We’re good to go,'” Caddick said. “We have all those things in place.” 

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