Old SeaBuses would be replaced not refitted

North Shore Outlook

By Jeff Nagel

Danial Pi - photo

Danial Pi - photo

TransLink now plans to eventually replace its two existing SeaBuses with all-new vessels, instead of refurbishing them as previously planned.

The finishing touches are being put on a third SeaBus that goes into service later this fall.

The original plan was to send the existing two 30-year-old boats to the shipyard for retrofits – one at a time – after the 2010 Olympics end.

But TransLink CEO Tom Prendergast said that no longer looks wise.

Shipyards wouldn’t warranty the hulls of the two vessels if they got a facelift.

And the estimated price of the work was too high.

“We were more than mildly surprised at the cost,” Prendergast said.

TransLink may also be able to tap provincial and federal grants toward the capital cost of buying new SeaBuses, but not to renovate the existing vessels, he added.

Buying new won’t cost that much more than renovation, he said, and will ensure the hulls are warrantied.

“We’re definitely leaning in the direction of replacement,” he said.

But there’s no rush to build the new boats, particularly in light of TransLink’s tight finances.

Prendergast said the existing Burrard Otter and Burrard Beaver can likely stay in service for some time with no problems or safety risks.

The third SeaBus that was built at Victoria Shipyard and will soon launch is costing TransLink $25 million. It’s been christened the MV Burrard Pacific Breeze.

Once all three vessels are in operation, TransLink will be able to provide more frequent sailings – every 10 minutes at peak times versus every 15 minutes now.

But don’t count on that actually happening beyond the 2010 Winter Olympics, when Vanoc will be paying for increased sailings.

TransLink plans to reduce service back to two vessels once the Olympics are over, unless a $450-million expansion plan is approved – the only 10-year plan scenario with sufficient funding earmarked for three-vessel operation.

The SeaBus service carried 5.5 million passengers across Burrard Inlet last year.

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