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NEWS RELEASE March 22, 2006

BC Ferries over 10 years late in building replacements for Queen of the North, which sunk overnight, and two other aging northern ferries, says BC Shipyard General Workers' Federation; say new ferries worth $500 million should be built - in BC shipyards - as soon as possible

VANCOUVER – BC Ferries is years late in building replacements for the 37-year-old Queen of the North, which sunk after running aground overnight, and two other northern ferries, the BC Shipyard General Workers' Federation said today.

And BC Ferries should be building the three new ferries worth about $500 million in British Columbia shipyards as soon as possible, says Federation president George MacPherson.

“We have thankfully avoided a terrible tragedy with the sinking of the Queen of the North but this ferry should have already been replaced with a newer, safer ferry,” MacPherson said. “A single hull vessel like this is simply not as safe as a modern ship with double hull and compartments to reduce the risk of sinking in the event of grounding.”

“The Queen of the North was built in 1969 and BC Ferries has been talking about building a replacement for it since the mid-1990s but nothing was done,” he said. “On top of that, the Queen of Prince Rupert was built in 1966 and the Queen of Chilliwack in 1978 – all three should be coming out of service but there are no new ferries being built to replace them.”

And MacPherson says the three new ferries needed can and should be built here in BC shipyards.

“The new north coast replacement ferries are worth about $500 million and that work would create 5,500 direct and indirect BC jobs for several years,” MacPherson said. “The BC shipbuilding industry and BC shipyard workers have the skills, experience and capacity to build these ships and we can start immediately.”

MacPherson said he hopes BC Ferries will not consider building the new ferries in a foreign shipyard, as they did in 2004 when a contract to build three new Super-C class ferries worth $542 million was given to a German shipyard without BC shipyards being given the opportunity to make a final bid to build them in British Columbia .

MacPherson credited the well-trained crew of the Queen of the North for avoiding injuries and loss of life in the accident.

The BC Shipyard General Workers' Federation represents about 2,000 workers in the shipbuilding, repair and maintenance industry.

For more information : Call George MacPherson at 604-254-8204 or cell 604-220-3291 or Bill Tieleman, West Star Communications, at 604-844-7827 or cell 778-896-0964. Website: www.bcshipyardworkers.com

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