New fast foot-passenger ferries servicing Nanaimo and Vancouver are expected to set sail in mid August.
In a press release, Vancouver Island Ferry Company said its pair of Hullo ferries – Sthuqi’ (pronounced sta-key) and Spuhéls (spah-els) – will begin service Aug. 14, with reservations beginning early next week.
The vessels will leave the terminal in Nanaimo at 6 a.m., 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. and the Vancouver terminal at 8 a.m., 12 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. initially, with more sailings to be added later, noted the press release. Sailings from Nanaimo at 8:30 p.m. and from Vancouver at 10:30 p.m. will occur for events and special occasions.
At a media event on Thursday, July 20, Alastair Caddick, Hullo CEO, said the company is anticipating the official launch. With 354 seats, the first price level of the ferry will offer comfort seating for $39.99, while the upper level offers premium ($49.99) and business ($59.99) seating.
“We think the demand will be very high,” said Caddick. “We think people are going to like [that it’s] 100 per cent reservable … You’ll be able to select a seat the same way when you’re going on a flight or to a concert and you’re like, ‘I want to sit next to my friend and I want to in this seat.’ So that’s to be expected now of modern travel.”
Regional District of Nanaimo Transit is working on shuttle bus service, with an estimated start in January, and Caddick said Hullo is also working on its own service, which he hopes will be in place for Aug. 14, but not guaranteed.
“We will have a brand new parking lot that will have 300-plus spots and so certainly people can park here and that’ll help their connectivity,” said Caddick. “We will put in place a shuttle bus that will take people from the port, into downtown, and then we’re working with buses, the rideshares. We’re working with all of these different providers to ensure that we build greater connectivity over time.”
So far, 70 employees have been hired and Caddick estimated crews would be in the range of 10 people.
“It will depend on the number of passengers that we have, and the service that we want to provide, but quite frankly, it’s probably in the range of six to 10,” said Caddick. “We’ve got some flexibility based on how many passengers are on board and the service we’re going to provide.”
Sam Chaudhuri, Hullo operations manager, said the engine is fueled by a blended fuel comprised of biofuel and diesel, which is more environmentally friendly.
“The propulsion system for this catamaran is water jet propulsion and we have four MTU engines for that,” said Chaudhuri. “Each engine is capable of delivering 1,440 kilowatts, so that makes it 5,760 kilowatts for the entire propulsion system. Apart from that, we have two Caterpillar generators for supplying electricity and hotel load.”
Tickets can be booked from Aug. 14 onwards, said the press release, but earlier sailing dates may come online after July 28.