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NEWS RELEASE Sunday, February 29, 2004

BC SHIPYARD WORKERS FEDERATION SAYS PUBLIC INQUIRY NEEDED TO FIND OUT HOW GOVERNMENT SALE OF FAST FERRIES COST TAXPAYERS MILLIONS, AS WASHINGTON MARINE GROUP'S RE-SALE OF 3 PACIFICATS AS FLOATING CASINOS NOW SHOWS

Fast cats cost $450 million to build, BC Liberals sold for $19 million last year

VANCOUVER - The BC Shipyard General Workers' Federation says a public inquiry should be held to uncover how the provincial government lost millions on last year's sale of the three fast cats built for BC Ferries, which are now being resold at a multi-million dollar profit.

News today that the Washington Marine Group will sell three fast ferries it bought from B.C. Ferries last year for just $19.2 million means provincial taxpayers lost tens of millions of dollars in the March 2003 auction, says George MacPherson, president of the Shipyard General Workers' Federation, which represents unions whose members built the ships.

“News that the Washington Marine Group is going to resell the three fast ferries at a considerable profit shows what a total travesty for taxpayers the sale was last year,” MacPherson said Sunday. “It's pretty clear that we need a public inquiry to determine why the BC government and BC Ferries were so intent to sell the fast cats at such a huge loss when they clearly are worth tens of millions more than was paid.”

MacPherson said he believes provincial politics motivated the bargain basement sale of the fast cats, when the BC Liberal government should have been trying to obtain the maximum value for the ships. BC Ferries racked up $4 million in costs to sell the fast cats, including a $2.6 million fee to Ritchie Brothers Auctioneers, only to see the ships purchased by the same company that originally built them for $450 million.

MacPherson said his members are pleased that Washington Marine Group is going to refit the fast ferries in BC, with estimates of jobs for 200 workers for 18 months. That means Washington Marine Group, which owns Vancouver Shipyards in North Vancouver , will likely be spending several million on the refit job.

“It's especially good news for BC shipyard workers that the fast ferries' resale will create jobs because BC Ferries is intent on giving new ship construction and refit work on our ferries to foreign shipyards in Korea, China, Germany or anywhere but BC,” MacPherson said.

MacPherson recalled a quote he made on March 24, 2003 , the day the fast ferries were sold. "If these three fast ferries are bought for a song today and flipped for millions more shortly thereafter, the government and B.C. Ferries management have a lot of explaining to do to BC taxpayers,” MacPherson said then.

“Today we see that our warnings have all come true – it's time BC taxpayers understood what really went on with the giveaway sale of the fast ferries for a price that was probably tens of millions below their true value,” he said.

For more information : contact George MacPherson at cell 604-220-3291 or
Bill Tieleman, West Star Communications, at cell 778-896-0964 or 604-844-7827.

BACKGROUND

The PacifiCat-class vessels, the PacifiCat Explorer, PacifiCat Discovery and PacifiCat Voyager, are 122-metre aluminum catamaran fast ferries designed to carry up to 1,000 passengers and crew and up to 250 vehicles.

The PacifiCats operate at a speed of approximately 34 knots and were designed by Philip Hercus of Incat Designs of Sydney, Australia, a world leader in fast ferry development.

Over 40 percent of all vehicle-carrying fast cat ferries currently operating around the world are based on Incat Designs work.

Measured by size and capacity, the PacifiCats are the second largest catamaran fast ferries in the world and were designed to maximize the speed-to-payload economics based on available power.

John J. McMullen Associates Inc. ("JJMA"), the largest independent naval architecture consulting firm in North America, conducted a technical assessment of the design and construction quality of the PacifiCat Explorer and her two sister ships, which were still under construction, in 1999. JJMA reported that "the vessels are fine ships and are of good quality throughout."

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