By Mark Edward Nero
BC Ferries, the service provider responsible for ferry service along coastal British Columbia, has temporarily removed Spirit of British Columbia from service so it can undergo engineering and maintenance work as well as sea trials in preparation for its mid-life upgrade and fuel conversion to operate on liquefied natural gas.
The ferry was taken out of service Sept. 7 and is scheduled to remain out through Sept. 15. The Coastal Renaissance is temporarily replacing the Spirit of British Columbia on the Tsawwassen – Swartz Bay route.
On Sept. 10 and 11, the Spirit of British Columbia was in Saanich Inlet to perform sea trials in order to complete various vessel performance tests and to verify the operational profile of the vessel.
Spirit of British Columbia, built in 1993, is a 547-foot long, 11,600-ton vessel that can carry up to 2,100 people, including crew, and can travel at a top speed of 19.5 knots.
The vessel is scheduled to undergo a mid-life upgrade and natural gas conversion process at Remontowa Ship Repair SA in Poland from the fall of 2017 through the spring of 2018. Its sister vessel, the Spirit of Vancouver Island, is expected to undergo the same process the following year, from the fall of 2018 through the spring of 2019.
In March 2016, Remontowa Ship Repair received a $140 million contract to upgrade the two Spirit-Class ferries to dual fuel so they can operate on LNG.