New operator for Arrow Lakes ferries

The contractor that operates the Galena Bay, Arrow Park and Fauquier ferries is changing from Western Pacific Marine Ltd.

The contractor that operates the Galena Bay, Arrow Park and Fauquier ferries is changing from Western Pacific Marine Ltd. to new contractor Waterbridge Ferries Inc. on Oct. 1, 2012, the Arrow Lakes News can confirm.

A B.C. transportation ministry spokesperson said the contract to operate the ferries was tendered this spring when the old one expired. Waterbridge emerged as the winning bidder.

The Arrow Lakes News spoke with representatives from both companies and the ministry. All were reluctant to divulge details, saying an official announcement was pending.

The ministry said the contract had not yet been finalized.

Our questions focused on service and staffing levels.

The transportation ministry spokesperson said: “The ministry expects the same high level of service and a seamless transition to the new operator. The request for proposals required that the new operator make offers of employment to the unionized staff, as there are successor requirements.”

Dave Holm is the Nakusp-based regional manager for Western Pacific Marine Ltd., the long-time operator.  He said the transition would result in, “No changes to the ferry service.”

He added the transition boiled down to “new names on the signs.”

Waterbridge Ferries Inc. is a sister company of Waterbridge Steel Inc., the Prince George-based company that is building the new ferry for the Galena Bay to Shelter Bay route in Nakusp. The company builds and operates ferries, including the Francois lake ferry near the town of Burns Lake, B.C.

Owner John Harding confirmed his company was taking over the contracts. “We’re not supposed to be saying anything,” he said, also citing a pending announcement.

He also said service and staffing levels would not change: “No, I can tell you that.”

Harding said construction of the new ferry is proceeding. The keel has been laid and a launch grid is being constructed. The ferry is scheduled to be completed in May of 2014.