Canadian Manufacturing

New report urges BC Ferries to prop up local shipbuilding industry

Columbia Institute said hundreds of millions of dollars in economic benefits if new vessels built locally



VANCOUVER—A new report says British Columbia could realize “significant economic benefits” if its provincially-owned ferry operator signed deals to build boats locally.

The report from the Columbia Institute comes as the BC Ferries provincial Crown corporation works through an open bidding process for three new vessels to add to its fleet.

Some of those benefits include retaining jobs, slashing government debt and growing the economy by a claimed $378-million, according to the report.

“The economics are clear—building B.C.’s ferries in the province would create local jobs, bring in increased tax revenue, strengthen the Canadian ship building industry and leverage investments already made by the federal and provincial government,” Columbia Institute executive director Charley Beresford said in a statement.

“The numbers add up, with big dollars staying home to benefit our economy and employment.”

As BC Ferries gets closer to awarding a deal to build the three new intermediate class vessels, the Columbia Institute encouraged the agency to consider the economic benefits, including more than $100-million in tax revenue split between the federal and B.C. governments.

Beyond the three intermediate ships, though, the report notes BC Ferries’ long-term procurement program could see as many as 26 vessels replaced over the next 15 years, with predicted expenditures of $2.5-billion.

“Offshoring this massive program benefits other countries while leaving British Columbia, Canada and BC Ferries customers shouldering ongoing debt and costs,” Beresford said.

“We can meet the need of BC Ferries while benefiting our local economy.”

BC Ferries last awarded a contract for new vessels in 2004, when it bought three coastal class ferries from Germany’s Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft shipyard.

According to the Columbia Institute, the approved contract price for the three Coastal class ferries was $325-million, but the overall budget was $542-million.

The public policy institute claims BC Ferries ended up spending more than $800-million on the ferries.

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