Saturday, April 02, 2016

IFSL Feels Disqualified From Ferry RFEI

Island Ferries Questions RFEI Process

April 1, 2016 – Nanaimo, BC – On November 25, 2013, Island Ferries Services Ltd. invited the Nanaimo community to attend an Open House at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre. At that time, IFSL informed the entire community of its intention to initiate a foot passenger service. The company also highlighted, if it was to navigate the waters before it, demonstrable support from the City of Nanaimo City Council would be vital.

IFSL’s business model focuses on excellent customer service and sharing with the public its business strategy. That commitment was demonstrated in the Company’s participation in an eTown Hall meeting requested by the City of Nanaimo, on Monday, December 2, 2013 in the Shaw Auditorium of the Nanaimo Conference Centre.
At both sessions, IFSL described to Nanaimo and Island residents its plans for a downtown Nanaimo – downtown Vancouver foot passenger service. It confirmed that two Transport Canada-certified sister ships (42 metre length, 12 metre beam) that could provide comfortable, reliable and dependable travel – and a 68 minute crossing to downtown Vancouver – were ready for service once final funding was arranged.

Island Ferries encouraged the community to express its support for the IFSL proposal and to advocate their support directly to Nanaimo City Council, recommending that Council approve the proposed lease and partnering agreements. The community responded and Council acted as requested, despite IFSL not yet having secured final funding.

“From day one, we have said it is important not only to IFSL but, more importantly, to our customers and to the community, to be transparent in our offerings”, said David Marshall, Island Ferries, Director of Operations. “Future passengers want to see this service move forward. They wanted to see it then and they want, and deserve, choices in their travel options now.”

With the final funding recently committed, nothing had changed for Island Ferries but for the decision by the City of Nanaimo and the Nanaimo Port Authority to seek interest from other potential operators.

According to the joint Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) released on March 30th, the City of Nanaimo and the Nanaimo Port Authority view the operation of a high speed passenger ferry service between the two cities as a catalyst that will diversify and grow the local economy. IFSL couldn’t agree more.

Both organizations have identified the operation of a passenger ferry as a top strategic priority. IFSL had invested heavily to fulfil that need. IFSL agrees completely that its service will help to bolster tourism in the Nanaimo and the Central Vancouver Island Region by creating a fast and cost effective transportation alternative for Lower Mainland residents and tourists to access Vancouver Island.

The RFEI seeks responses from passenger ferry operators who wish to establish a high speed, frequent and reliable year round passenger ferry service between downtown Nanaimo and downtown Vancouver. While noting that this service does not currently exist, both the City and the Port have been well aware of Island Ferries’ interest for some time and have had in their possession much of IFSL’s proprietary information. Through the various mandated public processes, they have been provided with more than sufficient background information to engage IFSL directly.

Despite having advised the City and the Port Authority that Island Ferries had secured its final funding commitment prior to any public announcement of an intended proposal call, and notwithstanding the frustration expressed by all parties with the time taken to implement the service, Island Ferries was prepared to respond to the RFEI when issued.

Having reviewed the RFEI, the company is very concerned that the criteria appear to exclude a number of operators, including Island Ferries. As written, the RFEI indicates the City and the Port are interested in receiving responses from firms who “have a proven track record of operating a high speed passenger only ferry service”. This statement appears to exclude IFSL and perhaps other operators who may have an interest in a submission. At a minimum, it would seem to establish a clear preference for an operator other than Island Ferries. While Island Ferries intends to submit questions seeking clarification on a number of issues, this exclusionary element is of considerable concern now.

As the City and NPA reserve the right to modify the terms of the RFEI at any time, it is IFSL’s sincere hope that they will take such action promptly and in a fair and transparent way, so that proponents such as IFSL and the community may take comfort that there is genuine interest in receiving responses.

“Island Ferries has been committed to establishing a reliable, dependable fast, passenger-only ferry service between downtown and Nanaimo and downtown Vancouver”, said Dr. Stewart Vinnels, Island Ferries President. “The City of Nanaimo and the Nanaimo Port Authority say they are interested in securing an operator of a high speed “Passenger Ferry” service between downtown Nanaimo and downtown Vancouver. IFSL can deliver this service this year and would like the opportunity to do so.”



  1. and on and on it goes. Nanaimo's never ending story.
    I am hopeful the deadline on the 'expressions of interest' will finally let us know who else is interested in starting up, it there are any at all !

    That German company that bought out the clipper in Victoria had stated they were. Is this what all the hullabaloo is about ?

  2. The question then arises. "Who or which company has actually run a fast ferry service?" Is there more than one? This may explain the rumored trip of our so called mayor to Victoria and beyond to secretly meet with the owners of the Island Clipper Service. Another conspiracy theory? Answers are needed.

  3. I have very little sympathy for Island Ferries. They continually pushed the funding envelope over a period of years with no resulting ferry service.

    Island Ferries could just never have enough money and the cost of the service moved up to over $70 million from a starting point of around $12 million. They even cajoled a promise of upward of $17 million from the failed Conservative candidate in last years federal election.Still it wasn't enough.

    Once the REFI was announced suddenly it was "We have the money in place ta da!" While Island Ferries chased ever more money, we, the potential ridership,twiddled our thumbs in anticipation. Four years is a long time to be patient.

  4. IFSL claims it has invested heavily to fulfil a passenger service. How much is "heavily?" $$$?

    Since we've been treading water for 3 years with IFSL I now say...may the BEST, most-reliable (and not to end in 6 months time) service wins!


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