Saturday, January 20, 2007

Sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful ship

During David Hahn’s recent visit to Prince Rupert, the CEO of B. C. Ferries became a bit of a storyteller, weaving the tale of the Sonia, now Northern Adventure and her rather circuitous journey to eventual service on the North Coast.
The Daily News presented his tale in the Thursday edition of the paper.

Included in the story is some of the rather colourful history of the Sonia, as well as the specifications of the vessel required for its use on the North Coast.

Man who built the Sonia never got to see his dream afloat
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Pages one and three

One orphan will join another when B. C. Ferries’ Northern Adventure, formerly the Sonia, begins sailing form Prince Rupert next April.

While Prince Rupert is often referred to as the orphan of Charles Hays, the railway mogul and the city’s founder who died aboard the Titanic, B. C. Ferries CEO David Hahn said the Northern Adventure is also something of an orphan.

Speaking at the Prince Rupert Chamber of Commerce luncheon yesterday, Hahn told the ship’s story.

“There was an elderly Greek shipping gentleman with two sons, probably in their 30’s and the father had a vision of getting into this type of business,” said Hahn.

The father passed away and the sons didn’t have the same enthusiasm, so the ship was built because it had to be built. It took a longer time and they didn’t care whether it got built. When it did come out, they chartered it.”

It was in Trinidad and Tobago for a while and then it was making trips between Barcelona and the island of Ibiza.

“That’s why I think we are lucky we got it in the first two years. It became an orphaned ship in a way and people don’t treat it the same way,” said Hahn.

Media reports early on were not kind about the ship’s condition.

The newspaper, Trinidad and Tobago’s Newsday, documented safety deficiencies and breakdowns and reported, that while on an Italian run, the Sonia’s engine exploded. Also, the keel was laid in 2001 and then left on bedding in the shipyard for a lengthy period, the paper claimed.

While maintenance on the ship has been spotty during the time it has been contracted out, B. C. Ferries ensured that the shipyard in Piraeus, Greece, gave her the TLC needed before making the voyage from across the Atlantic Ocean and through the Panama Canal.

The Northern Adventure arrived in Victoria for her refit Dec. 19.

Hahn said the Spanish company holding the charter contract wanted to extend the Sonia’s lease for another five years.

“We had to pay money to break the lease,” said Hahn.

Leasing the Sonia wan not an option given to B. C. Ferries by the Sonia’s owners, who own many large tankers but didn’t want to keep the ferry, he said.

B. C. Ferries also presented plans, colour schemes and interior finishes for the Northern Adventure at the meeting.

Built in 2004, the vessel is 117 metres long, with a breadth of 20 metres and a gross tonnage of 9,925. She has speed of 20.3 knots with a maximum draft of 4.7 metres.

The vessel was built in 2004, holds 600 passengers, 101 vehicles and has 70 cabins.

The Northern Adventure has three decks, allowing people to admire the scenery around the Queen Charlotte Islands, Prince Rupert and Port Hardy and the public areas are open and bright.

The cabins are comfortable and there are four large VIP cabins, which are perfect for honeymooners, said the corporation. The ship is also said to be exceptionally stable, making it ideal for service in Hecate Strait and the bridge boasts exceptional visibility.

B. C. Ferries will have to make dock modifications in Skidegate, Prince Rupert and Port Hardy to accommodate the loading and unloading of the new vessel.

The layout means vehicles will have to enter and exit through the rear doors. Transport trucks will have to back off. Cars will pass over an elevated loop at the bow end to drive out the rear doors.

Up to 42 crew will be accommodated on the seventh deck.

On Feb. 19, the ship will go to Deas Pacific Marine, B. C. Ferries’ refit facility in Richmond, for about three weeks for crew training and certification. Afterwards it will head north for dock trials and public open houses.

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