The Northern Adventure completed its first Bella Coola run last week, making it the first full-size vessel to show up this summer since in the disastrous no-show season of the Northern Sea Wolf.
In an effort to salvage what is left of the 2018 season BC Ferries brought in the Northern Adventure, which is normally used for Inside Passage and Haidi Gwaii service. It will provide direct service to Bella Coola between Sept. 16 and Oct. 11. This means the seasonal service will be offered for less than one month before wrapping up for the year.
It is slated to resume in June 2019, using the Northern Sea Wolf vessel, which is still being upgraded in Victoria.
BC Ferries purchased the Northern Sea Wolf last year and its much-anticipated launch date came and went a few times this summer, leaving local tourism operators in the lurch. The West Chilcotin Tourism Association paid for a study that said operators lost $3.9 million as a result of the route shutting down 2014.
Many tourism operators have said this year hasn’t been much better, as the loss of clients who had their sailings cancelled on the Sea Wolf also creates a ripple effect for future clients years to come.
“The project is taking longer than estimated to bring the vessel up to B.C. Ferries’ and Transport Canada’s standards, which is affecting the budget,” Deborah Marshall, spokeswoman for B.C. Ferries, said in a statement.
The Northern Sea Wolf, originally called the Aqua Spirit, arrived in Esquimalt last year from its home port in Greece. Esquimalt Drydock was awarded two B.C. Ferries contracts worth $20 million to completely refit the ship. Work was originally anticipated to be finished by April 2018.
The total price tag is not yet available. “Because the work is still underway, there are commercial sensitivities to releasing figures at this time,” she said.
To attract passengers on what is left of this year’s season, B.C. Ferries is staging a sale by reducing fares by up to 40 per cent this fall. Adult passenger fares are $99, down from $169. Standard vehicle and driver fares start at $298, from $505, B.C. Ferries announced this week.
B.C. Ferries is also promoting vacation packages. They include grizzly-bear watching, said Janet Carson, B.C. Ferries’ vice-president of marketing and customer experience.