Let the competition begin.
Yet another high-speed passenger service from Victoria to Vancouver is expected to ramp up competition, resulting in cheaper rates for customers.
Earlier this week, Fast Reliable Seaways (FRS), a global ferry and shipping group, announced it acquired a majority interest in Clipper Navigation Ltd.
As part of the acquisition, Clipper is establishing a high-speed ferry service from downtown Vancouver to downtown Victoria.
The roughly three-hour catamaran service will include on-board amenities and is expected to be up and running in the spring in time for the start of the tourist season.
“I’m thrilled. This is a hand-picked partnership on my part. I have known FRS for many years. They’re a wonderful operation and they have a very similar way of looking at things to ours,” said Meredith Tall, founder and CEO of Clipper. “We have similar visions for North American expansion.”
Sailing times have yet to be confirmed, but Tall speculated they could begin with morning departures from Vancouver and a sailing back in the evening.
The vessel has yet to be acquired (they hope to have it finalized in the next few weeks), but will be custom tailored to the route, to include ride control, better seakeeping ability and longer to reduce the potential of sea sicknesses, added Tall.
Earlier this month, the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority and Riverside Marine B.C., a family business with operations around the Sydney, Australia area and across Queensland, reached an offer to lease the Steamship Terminal in an effort to offer a similar service between Vancouver and Victoria as well.
The high-speed jet catamaran will have a capacity of up to 300 passengers, with daily sailings departing Vancouver in the morning and Victoria in the afternoon. It is expected to begin preliminary sailings this summer and with full operations beginning in the 2017 tourism season.
A similar service was launched between Vancouver and Victoria in 1994 by Royal Sealink Express, however it was eventually halted due to low ridership and seasickness among passengers.
With two similar services, Tourism Victoria President and CEO Paul Nursey believes it will create healthy competition between companies.
“The market is growing very quickly,” he said. “Though we do live on an island, they (tourists) have to get here somehow, so what mode and choice that they make in terms of the customer will come down to intense competition around price, service, and their ability to promote their product.”
Greater Victoria Harbour Authority CEO Ian Robertson said two companies investing in a similar service shows the market for a harbour-to-harbour service is growing.
“What this says to me is you’ve got two widely known, well-respected international marine companies both saying they believe there’s a market opportunity to service Vancouver and Victoria and I think that’s great news,” Robertson said.
With Clipper’s support, FRS will also launch a ferry service from Florida to Cuba, pending government approval.
Fast Reliable Seaways is a German-based ferry and shipping company that operates 60 vessels in 12 countries with routes in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.