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New vessels' high fuel use confirmed for minister Falcon

A November memo prepared for Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon confirmed the three new Super C-class ferries use more fuel than do older vessels, but advised the minster to tell people B.C. Ferries' “overall fuel consumption will be significantly enhanced” once the new ships are in service.

“It is true the Coastal Renaissance is consuming more fuel than the Queen of Oak Bay or Cowichan,” said the November 26, 2008 issue note. The difference will be reduced, it said, “as B.C. Ferries' captains gain more comfort in operating the new vessel and adjust their transit and docking procedures to minimize fuel consumption.”

The Tyee reported in November that BC Ferries fuel use charts show that on some routes the new vessels used as much on average as 52 percent more fuel than do older vessels.

The engines are “highly efficient”, the memo said, and “produce more power using the same amount of fuel as the 30-year old engines in the older C-class ships.” The new ships, built in Germany with a total project cost of $542 million, also have room for “a great deal” more semi trailers, it said, with space for 34 instead of 12.

The memo failed to note that the older ships carry a similar number of cars and passengers as the new vessels, but weigh much less and therefore require less power to move. The Queen of Oak Bay, for example, weighs 6,673 tonnes, while the Coastal Celebration is 10,034 tonnes.

The memo did however say the Celebration will be “much more fuel efficient than the Spirit Class vessels on the Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay Route,” noting it will save about 1,500 litres per round trip. The Spirits weigh 11,642 tonnes and carry 100 more vehicles and 500 more passengers than the Celebration. B.C. Ferries president and CEO David Hahn made a similar comparison in November.

Communications officials produced the memo following news reports about the new ships “With claims that they have some design flaws and are not as fuel efficient as the older vessels. There are suggestions that the propellers sit too high in the water, and churn the surface of the water more than they should.”

The memo did not directly address the question of design flaws, but it did say the ships are “first class”. “The ships are under a two-year warranty,” it said. “There have been a few issues which were promptly rectified by the shipyard.”

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

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