By Marilyn Zink
The Nanaimo Port Authority’s, NPA, announcement to seek proposals for a foot passenger ferry in January has left another proponent reeling.
The NPA has released its intent to secure proposals for a daily foot passenger ferry with the cruise ship terminal as a likely location.
Island Ferries has been working with the port authority as well as local governments and the new move has left the company “stunned” by the port’s actions, says spokesman Dave Marshall,.
“We’re extremely disappointed by that,” says Marshall. “We’ve been making tremendous progress. The port has been aware of the progress.”
Port Authority CEO Bernie Dumas says the port authority has been patient working with Island Ferries for just over five years.
“They’ve been working to develop their financial package,” he says. “The port has been approached by some other companies that want to talk about it. We want to look at starting this service sooner rather than later.”
Marshall says Island Ferries met with the chair and vice chair of the port authority as recently as Nov. 10 and advised “how close we are to concluding a deal.”
Dumas says they want to work with the City of Nanaimo, Economic Development Commission and other community leaders to co-ordinate transportation links with the cruise ship terminal as a likely location.
“We have ample room to handle a fast ferry,” says Dumas. “We could start a service here quite quickly.”
The operator would lease the infrastructure from the port while running a private operation.
Marshall says Island Ferries has been working with the port authority to consider the cruise ship terminal but there would be a conflict between the cruise ships and the noise created by a fast ferry.
“There would be tremendous interference between the two operators,” says Marshall.
Financial considerations by the port authority have also placed Island Ferries at a disadvantage.
“The amount of money the port has been looking for is egregarious,” says Marshall.
“We couldn’t reach a financial agreeable point.”
Marshall says Island Ferries has been working closely with the City of Nanaimo and the Regional District of Nanaimo, RDN, to start an interim facility that connects with connects with island transportation links.
“The agreement was to start on city owned property and when broader plans were made, move as needed.”
The port authority’s terms of the Request For Proposals, RFP, are now being developed.
“NPA will be reaching out to the Central Island communities to ensure the RFP process is collaborative,” says Jeet Manhas, NPA Board Chair.
“It is important that potential users and the communities be engaged in the process and that the outcome is a reliable service that can be sustained over a long period of time”.