By Marilyn Zink
The City of Nanaimo is backing the Nanaimo Port Authority’s plan to have a foot passenger ferry service despite an earlier agreement with Island Ferries.
The city agreed Monday during an in camera meeting to partner with the port authority on its Request for Proposals, RFP, for a fast foot passenger ferry.
“It was a renewed commitment to working in partnership with the port,” says Interim City Manager Tracy Samra.
“We’re very, very happy the City has followed suit,” says Bernie Dumas, president and CEO of the Nanaimo Port Authority, NPA.
Dumas says the port is getting ready to accommodate a foot passenger ferry.
One requirement by Canada Customs is to separate the international cruise ship passengers from the foot passenger service.
“We’re working on a laneway,” says Dumas.
He says the docking can handle both the cruise ships and the foot passenger service, though some upgrades would be required for the ferry service.
“We’re looking at $300,000 to $500,000 to put the necessary upgrades in at the dock,” says Dumas.
She says Mayor Bill McKay terminated the Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, that was in place for a number of years between the between the Island Ferries, the City, Nanaimo Port Authority, NPA, the Regional District of Nanaimo, RDN and the Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation, NEDC.
“That was in place for a number of years,” says Samra.
She says supporting the port authority makes the foot passenger ferry an open competition.
“Of course, Island Ferries can bid for that,” says Samra. “We’re thinking what’s best for the city. It makes no sense to compete with the Port Authority on this.”
Island Ferries spokesman Dave Marshall had earlier expressed dismay at the port authority’s decision for a request for proposals.
Marshall says he understands the City wants to broaden the process for a ferry service.
“On the other hand, I’m disappointed that they chose to do this given that we’re so close in negotiations. We were invited by the City to take up a lease on their land. That’s important, the City invited us.”
Samra says the lease expired earlier this year “so it hasn’t been in place for quite some time.”
The process for the foot passenger ferry service has been five years and the mayor wants to see something happen next year.
“This project is a priority for both organizations. We hope to have a foot ferry operating by the end of 2016,” says Mayor Bill McKay.
Dumas says the port is working with communities up and down the island to garner support for the ferry project.