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NEWS RELEASE March 21, 2003

SECRET DOCUMENTS SHOW GOVERNMENT AND BC FERRIES IGNORED DETAILED PROPOSAL FROM NORWEGIAN COMPANY TO RUN FAST FERRIES ON SUNSHINE COAST ROUTES WITH MINOR MODIFICATIONS AND SAVE MILLIONS FOR TAXPAYERS

Kvaerner Masa Marine business plan could have been tested for just $290,000

Secret government documents released today by the BC Shipyard General Workers' Federation show that the province and BC Ferries ignored a detailed proposal from a Norwegian company to modify the three PacifiCat fast ferries for use on existing Sunshine Coast routes, a plan that would have saved taxpayers millions of dollars.

The Kvaerner Masa Marine business plan suggested that a trial modification to test the proposal would have cost just $290,000 but was ignored by the government and BC Ferries.

"These secret documents show that the government is so intent on getting rid of the fast ferries for political reasons that it ignored solid proposals from private business that would save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars," said Federation president George MacPherson.

"We are once again calling on the BC government and Transportation Minister Judith Reid to call an immediate halt to the costly and unnecessary auction of the fast ferries on Monday and take a sober second look at the practical alternatives to selling these ships off for a fraction of their true value," MacPherson said. "It's never too late to do the right thing."

The Kvaerner Masa Marine proposal was viewed favourably by Catamaran Ferries International, a subsidiary of BC Ferries, in May 2000. "Based on our review, it appears that it is technically feasible to operate PacifiCats at 20 knots on the Horseshoe Bay-Langdale route, with truck-carry capacity, for a minimal capital cost," the CFI review states.

Kvaerner argued that: "Therefore, rather than sell at a considerable loss both financially and in international prestige, we can turn a very bad development into a tolerably acceptable one for all parties. The Government and BCFC would gain credibility in the eyes of the taxpayers for this initiative."

MacPherson said the Kvaerner plan dealt with technical solutions to reliability, wake wash and semi-trailer truck capacity problems and also proposed several alternative power train options.

"This secret report provides evidence that the government is about to make an enormously expensive mistake that British Columbians will be paying for over decades," MacPherson said. "The fast ferries were a mistake, but one that can still be fixed, if they're not sold for a song."

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

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