After a week of installation and testing, the new ferry at Arrow Park was expected to be in service Wednesday.
The president of Waterbridge Steel says the new ferry they built to replace the aging cable ferry on the Arrow Lake was expected to be fully operational this week.
“It was a month ago we put it in the water, and towed it down to Arrow Park, and put it on temporary cables for sea trials and crew training,” says Waterbridge president John Harding.
The Arrow Park III is the last of four modern ferries built by Waterbridge Steel over the last few years. Others have been installed at Harrop, Glade, and Adams Lake.
The entire four-year contract was worth about $28 million for the Nakusp-based construction company, and employed about 20 people at the time the last ferry was launched.
“The new ferries have worked well for the communities they’re in, the ministry has done a good job of replacing these old, old ferries,” Harding says. “We were happy to be part of it and certainly happy to be part of the communities we worked in.”
The Arrow Park ferry will be operated by a subsidiary of the company, Waterbridge Ferries.
The vessel runs across the junction of Upper and Lower Arrow Lakes at Arrow Park, 22 kilometres south of Nakusp on Highway 6.
The new 24-car ferry will be larger and able to carry more vehicles than the existing ferry, with capacity increased to handle commercial vehicles at full highway loads.
Other projects, electrification
With construction complete, Harding says the company is shifting over to other contracts in the area.
“We have a bunch of odds-and-sods projects at this point, though I think everyone would like to take a bit of a break,” he says. “But there’s no place to go, so we’ll jump right into the extra things we have to do.”
That includes retrofitting and repair work on a number of the company’s vessels.
“We have a year or two of work for a smaller crew, and we’ll keep on going,” he says.
He says they’re also hoping to take part in the next big phase of the province’s upgrading of its inland ferry system — converting the service to renewable energy sources.
The Arrow Park III is also the first vessel of the ministry’s inland fleet that will be fully electrified, an important part of the Province’s CleanBC commitment. The vessel is scheduled to be fully electrified in 2021.
“They’d like to get moving on those very quickly, and I think we’ll be involved with that,” says Harding.
Waterbridge now employs about six people, but that could change as new contracts are issued.
Harding also says the COVID-19 pandemic has not directly affected his company’s day-to-day business of operating several ferries in the region. They have, however, hired extra staff to deep-clean the boats and keep them safe and sanitized for workers and passengers alike.