I have a special fondness for the Marine Branch of the British Columbia Ministry of Transport. They accepted me as a Marine Engineering Apprentice a long time ago, when very few companies chose to invest in training future Marine Engineers. The Marine Branch ran all the provincially owned ferries in the province until the 60’s, when BC Ferries was created. The ferries in the province where then separated into Fresh Water and Salt Water fleets, the latter administered by BC Ferries.
The Marine Branch “owned” and operated a large number of ferries all over the province, in support of its transportation mandate, however most were small operations, temporary, or the likes. They did operate seven “licensed” ferries which were larger, inspected by Transport Canada and crewed by professionals mariners. These vessels were located on Kootenay Lake, two of them, 1 on Francois Lake, 2 in the Fraser River, and 2 on Upper Arrow Lake. The Marine Branch, since early 2000, has been divesting of its operational responsibility over the vessels, utilizing private operators to run them.
Most people were not aware of the Marine Branch, well until the provincial government announced last year, the building of one of the largest vessels in the province. The idea is to replace two aging and smaller vessel, the Galena and the Shelter Bay, which have operated on the Upper Arrow Lake, near Revelstoke, near the Canadian Rockies.
|The Williston Transporter operating on Lake Williston in Northern BC|
The company tasked with building (and operating) of the new vessel, is the spotlight shy Waterbridge Steel, led by John Harding. He has had a considerable and storied past in the province’s little known “inland fleet”. One of their feats of engineering, was the building of the very rarely seen Williston Transporter, operating on Lake Williston – a large lake created by the massive WAC Bennet dam project in northern BC.
I started writing this post because I stumbled on their official website, which I believe is relatively new. To anyone interested in the history of the province, and of innovative shipbuilding, is a really neat find.
Then again if those topics don’t interest you, the website has a fair deal of media available on the current building of the new ferry. The building of the ship is being done in a remote community, on the shore of Arrow Lake, near the ferry run it will serve. Its a really unique ship, on a unique project, by a unique company, that few are aware of. I encourage you to visit the site here.