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Comparing Supers to Spirits 'smoke and mirrors': Ferry critic

B.C. Ferries president and CEO David Hahn defended the high fuel consumption of the new German-built Super C-class vessels by comparing them to the Sprit-class ships, but those ships are much larger.

"A classic example would be [Coastal Celebration] versus a Spirit-class ship,” Hahn said, according to a Times-Colonist article about the newest vessel going into service. “A Spirit takes seven or eight minutes to turn around on each side, this ship doesn't have to do it [because it can load on both ends]. There's very substantial fuel savings there."

But that's comparing apples to watermelons. The Spirit vessels, however, carry 470 vehicles plus 2,100 people. The new German vessels, on the other hand, carry 370 vehicles and 1,600 people.

“David Hahn is trying to put up smoke and mirrors about the new vessels,” said NDP ferry critic Gary Coons. “Comparing new vessels to Sprit-class vessels is just a sign he's reaching for excuses for the vessels . . . There's no comparison in design, size and maneuverability.”

Fuel consumption is a big issue for the ferry company. On Friday the ferry commissioner, Martin Crilly, approved the removal of fuel surcharges and released a chart tracking the rise in fares.

Fares on all routes will drop to below 2003 rates for two months thanks to a $20 million cheque from the provincial government, then return to near their current levels before continuing to climb, the chart said.

Last week The Tyee reported the new ferries have had problems with high fuel consumption, noise and vibrations that may be related to serious design flaws.

Coastal Celebration has not been used since it was put into service on November 21. The Coastal Renaissance was taken out of service four days a week in October, and is expected to be off completely until December 6.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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