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December 17, 2005

B.C.'s not-so-fast ferries could sail again

According to Canadian media reports, Washington Marine Group is considering putting the three PacifiCat ferries into service in the Vancouver area, possibly on the original Vancouver--Nainamo route for which they were built.

The three 122 m aluminum ferries were built for B.C. Ferries at Catamaran Ferries International, a yard set up for the purpose by the then B.C. Government. The whole venture proved a costly flop that landed B.C. taxpayers with a Candian $454 million loss.

B.C. Ferries was reorganized and the catamarans went on the auction block in March 2004. The auctioneer described them as ""three technically advanced fast ferries capable of carrying 1,000 passengers and 250 vehicles at speeds of up to 34 knots."

If you want to know what the ferries were initially hoped to do, the folks who designed the original very flashy website for International Catamaran Ferries still maintain it--soundeffects and all--at http://www.unionarts.com/cfi

Unfortunately, the PacifiCats proved rather more successful on the web than in the water and Washington Marine Group got them for C$19.4 million. It has been looking for a buyer ever since.

Now, reportedly, Wasington Marine Group subsidiary Seaspan International has completed a market study indicating that the public might be prepared to accept the ferries, even though they would be run at the same speed as conventional ferries.

Among factors still being mulled by Seaspan is whether, even at a reduced operating speed, fuel eonomy will be adequate to make operation of the ferries viable.

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