David Hahn departed to enjoy one of the most costly pensions ever given a public servant in British Columbia. Behind, he left a faltering operation with declining ridership, mounting financial losses, a deteriorating fleet and zero progress in converting ships to LNG fuel.
Natural gas is in plentiful supply here and use of this relatively clean fuel is being implemented around the world. However, BC Ferries, despite self-proclaimed business savvy, has not been a leader in seeking economic efficiency. Instead, it has been ruled by lethargic indifference.
LNG-fueled systems have higher capital costs but savings and operating improvements result from lower fuel costs, stable fuel supply, low engine emissions, very low noise pollution and longer engine life compared to typical diesel engines.
Norway committed to natural gas fuelled ships in 1996. Glutra, the world’s first LNG ferry, was launched 12 years ago and has missed only a handful of days since then due to technical difficulties. In November, Norwegian ferry operator Fjord1 added its largest vessel yet, the 242 car Boknafjord. Further additions are planned to the present fleet of 17 LNG vessels
The number of ships powered by liquefied natural gas may jump 10-fold within five years as anti-pollution rules force owners to switch to the cleaner- burning fuel, the industry’s biggest engine maker said.
“LNG is the future for shipping,” Jaakko Eskola, head of ship power at Helsinki-based Waertsilae Oyj, said by phone on Nov. 12 from Shanghai. Between 800 and 1,000 vessels may use the fuel by 2015, up from about 100 today, he said.
BC Ferries is still considering the viability of sailing LNG powered ships.