Friday, December 22, 2006

Missing the boat at BC Ferries

When BC Ferries proudly unveiled the new marketing strategy and new line up of names for northern service ferries they perhaps thought a page had been turned on recent events that have wreaked havoc on the system and its reputation.

But if the reaction to the corporate decision to pass over the folks of Hartley Bay is any indication, they’ll be in rough waters for a while yet.

The backlash to the naming of the latest addition to the fleet with the moniker Northern Adventure continues to gather some steam. The First Nations Summit is the latest group to urge the Ferry Corporation to re-think their decision and revisit the concept of naming the new vessel the Spirit of Hartley Bay.

The Daily News had the full details on the thoughts of the Summit on the latest decision from the ferry corporation.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Pages one and three

The organization representing First Nations involved in treaty negotiations feels B. C. Ferries missed the boat when it chose not to name its new vessel after the community of Hartley Bay.

“I find it hard to comprehend the notion put forward by Mr. Hahn that renaming the vessel in honour of the heroes of Hartley Bay would “hurt” the long term marketing strategies of B. C. Ferries,” said Grand Chief Edward John of the First Nations Summit political executive. “Unselfish heroic deed and marketing are generally a match made in marketing heaven; except it seems when it comes to the President of B. C. Ferries.”

It had been suggested shortly after the Queen of the North sunk last spring that the replacement vessel be named after the people of Hartley Bay, who came to the aid of those fleeing the sinking ship on the mostly empty stretch of coastline.

The MV Sonia will replace the Queen of the North, which sank March 22 after ramming into Gil Island; 99 people were rescued and two passengers are presumed dead.

The First Nations Summit is urging B. C. Ferries to reconsider its name for the new vessel. B. C. Ferries announced last week that its three new northern vessels will be named the Northern Adventure, Northern Expedition and Northern Discovery.

“I don’t know how these names will attract more customers for B. C. Ferries’ northern routes. Mr. Hahn and B. C. Ferries are missing a prime double opportunity to honour the heroes of Hartley Bay and showcase B. C. First Nations Culture with their marketing campaign,” said John.

“A marketing strategy that showcases the rich and diverse First Nations culture in B. C. while at the same time honouring those who spearheaded tremendous life-saving rescue efforts would be a win-win situation for B. C. Ferries and would undoubtedly prove to be an intriguing and effective marketing campaign.

The subject of the recent controversy, the $51 million MV Sonia smoothly sailed into Esquimalt harbour from Greece on Monday.

It is undergoing $9- million worth of refit work in Victoria Shipyards.

About 200 workers – up to 130 at any one time – will work during the next two months “Canadianizing” the European vessel and modifying it to fit B. C. Ferries specifications.

B. C. Ferries paid $17.1 million in duty and GST to a duty broker Monday, money the corporation has formally asked the federal government to return. A decision from Ottawa is expected early in the new year, said BC Ferries’ Deborah Marshall.

The corporation argues it had to replace the Queen of the North immediately and a replacement vessel could not be found in Canada. The duty is meant to discourage the purchase of ships from foreign countries and build the nation’s shipbuilding industry.

While in Victoria, customized steel work will be done to reconstruct the vessel’s stern loading ramp to fit Vancouver Island’s docks in Port Hardy, Prince Rupert, Skidegate in the Queen Charlotte Islands, and McLoughlin Bay in Bella Bella. The docks in those areas must also be upgraded.

Electrical and mechanical improvements will be made, including heat and lighting.

On Feb. 19 the ship will go to Deas Pacific Marine, BC Ferries’ refit facility in Richmond, for about three weeks for crew training and certification.

Afterwards, the MV Sonia which will be renamed Northern Adventure, will head north for dock trials and public open houses.

It is expected to be in service by April.

With files from CanWest News Service.

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