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A ferry good fuel

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LNG Industry,

Every year, Canadian ferry operators transport over 53 million passengers and nearly 19 million vehicles. These vessels help bring people to work, deliver goods to the marketplace and guide tourists to their destinations. Directly employing more than 9300 people, ferry transportation is a vital part of Canada’s transportation infrastructure.

Over the past few years, ferry operators have looked for alternative fuel options in order to reduce the cost of fuel, lower maintenance costs and protect the environment. The main alternative fuel option that ferry operators have invested in has been LNG. Ferries are leading the way in the LNG industry in Canada, following the model of countries such as Norway, which has been using LNG-powered ferries for 10 years.

Over the next five years, ferry operators will be investing over CAN$1.5 billion dollars into their fleets, for the purchase of new vessels, retrofitting existing vessels and adding new technology to their fleets. The industry has significant operating costs and ferry operators are looking to reduce these costs in order to keep fares reasonable.

To date, eight new LNG vessels have been ordered by Canadian ferry operators and two existing vessels will be retrofitted with LNG over the next few years. These vessels include the following:

Société des Traversiers du Québec (STQ):

  • Two 92 m LNG ferries being built by Davie Shipyards (Québec).
  • One 133 m LNG ferry delivered from Fincantiri Shipyard in Italy.

BC Ferries:

  • Three 105 m LNG ferries on order from Remontowa Shipbuilding in Poland.
  • Converting two existing ferries to LNG.


  • Two 148 m LNG ferries on order from Sedef Shipyard in Turkey.

BC Ferries

Mike Corrigan, CEO of BC Ferries, recently spoke about the decision to use LNG vessels, noting: “We call this a game-changer for BC Ferries, as after labour our biggest operating cost is diesel fuel. We believe LNG is the fuel of the future.”

BC Ferries consumes approximately 120 million litres per year of fuel for its 35-vessel fleet. Even with the price of oil falling, LNG provides a considerable price advantage, at 30% less than marine diesel. It is estimated that BC Ferries will save CAN$9.2 million per year in fuel costs just from the upgrading of two vessels (Spirit of Vancouver Island and Spirit of British Columbia). Both vessels are a part of the largest sized class in the BC Ferries fleet (S-Class Twins, at 560 ft in length) and they navigate one of the most travelled waterways, the Georgia Strait from Vancouver to Vancouver Island.

In February 2015, BC Ferries signed a 10-year contract with FortisBC for the delivery of LNG. FortisBC will supply 7.8 million litres of gas to BC Ferries on an annual basis for the company’s three new vessels, the first of which celebrated its steel cutting ceremony in January 2015. The Canadian Ferry Operators Association (CFOA) supports the work that British Columbia (B.C.) is doing to expand its LNG industry, as it provides ferry operators in the province with an alternative to traditional marine diesel.


FortisBC will also supply natural gas to Seaspan, and has helped offset the transition costs to LNG for the two new LNG freight ferries that can carry up to 59 cargo trailers. By switching to a dual-fuel system for these new ferries, Seaspan will reduce carbon emissions by 5450 tpy. The CFOA believes that there are more opportunities for similar partnerships between ferry operators and the LNG industry.

Société des Traversiers du Québec

STQ welcomed North America’s first LNG ferry from the Fincantieri Shipyard in Italy earlier this year. The MV F.-A.-Gauthier began servicing the Matane-Baie-Comeau-Godbout route in July. It is the largest ship in the STQ fleet at 133 m in length, and with enough room to transport 800 passengers. This dual-fuel vessel will be capable of operating on LNG fuel or traditional marine diesel. The engines are designed in such a way that they will reduce CO2 and NOX emissions, while completely eliminating SOX emissions.

In addition to the MV F.-A.-Gauthier, STQ has ordered the first two ‘made in North America’ LNG ferries from Davie Shipyards in Lévis, Québec. The hull assembly commenced in February 2015. The first ferry will be delivered in autumn 2015 and the second ferry will be delivered four months later. This is a good example of Canadian ferry operators investing in Canadian innovation and jobs.


Canada’s ferry operators believe in protecting the environment and minimising the industry’s carbon footprint. For example, the transportation industry in Québec accounted for 42.5% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the province in 2010. Investments in LNG can reduce carbon emissions by 25% for individual vessels.

The CFOA believes that these 10 LNG vessels are just the start of a valuable partnership between ferry operators and the LNG industry in Canada. With the Prime Minister and the Premier of B.C. announcing new tax reductions for the LNG industry at the end of February 2015, the CFOA hopes to see Canada become a bigger player on the global stage, as well as an increase in partnerships between the two industries.

This article originally featured in the July/August 2015 issue of LNG Industry magazine.

Written by Serge Buy, Canadian Ferry Operators Association, Canada. Edited from by

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