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NEWS RELEASE March 19, 2003

BC SHIPYARD AND FERRY WORKERS UNIONS CALL ON BC GOVERNMENT TO CANCEL FAST FERRIES' AUCTION AND CONDUCT FEASIBILITY STUDY TO RUN BC FAST FERRIES BETWEEN DOWNTOWN VANCOUVER AND VICTORIA, NANAIMO

Taxpayers could save hundreds of millions with new, faster service

The BC Shipyard General Workers' Federation and the BC Ferry and Marine Workers Union are calling on the BC government to immediately cancel Monday's planned auction of BC Ferries' three fast ferries and to conduct a feasibility study on running the PacifiCats from downtown Vancouver to downtown Victoria and Nanaimo.

The two unions say a downtown to downtown service utilizing the PacifiCats on the Vancouver-Victoria run would easily save ferry travelers an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes and an hour to an hour and 10 minutes on the Vancouver-Nanaimo run.

The downtown to downtown service would also allow BC Ferries save up to $300 million in capital costs - the estimated price of building three new ships to replace the fast ferries - while preserving BC taxpayers' investment of $454 million in the PacifiCats.

"This is a win-win proposal worth literally hundreds of millions of dollars that deserves serious consideration by the provincial government," says George MacPherson, president of the Shipyard General Workers' Federation, whose members built the ships. "Why give away these ships for a song to an international bidder when we could use them right here and give ferry travelers an exciting new option to get where they're going faster and more conveniently?"

Derwyn Brooks, BC Ferry and Marine Workers Union 1st Vice President, said BC Ferries still has the trained crews needed to operate the PacifiCats and predicted that the service would be popular for both tourists and business travelers.

"BC Ferries has an excellent opportunity to appeal to people who don't want to spend hours driving their vehicles or riding the bus from Tsawassen or Horseshoe Bay to Vancouver or Schwartz Bay to Victoria," Brooks said. "This proposal represents the best chance BC Ferries has of not only saving money but providing a service people would really appreciate." Brooks noted that the PacifiCats can carry up to 1000 passengers and 250 vehicles.

MacPherson said the major costs of the proposal would be the construction of terminals in downtown Vancouver and Victoria but that compared to spending $300 million for new ferries, the price would be small and could be covered by slightly higher fares for the faster trip.

"It's never too late for a good idea that saves taxpayers money and provides a valuable new service," says MacPherson. "Isn't it worth spending maybe $100,000 for a feasibility study instead of losing an investment of $454 million and spending another $300 million for replacement ships? Surely this government can understand that sort of a business case."

Media reports have put estimates for the sale of the fast ferries at as little as $10 million each. The auction takes place on Monday March 24 at 11 a.m. at the Canada Place Cruise Ship Terminal and will be conducted by Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers.

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 maximise 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."

For more information, contact George MacPherson at 604-254-8204.

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