Kitimat wants its own ferry service to isolated native communities

Prince Rupert's monopoly on ferry traffic to and from Klemtu, Bella Bella and Hartley Bay could be coming to an end.

The mayor of Kitimat, Joanne Monaghan, wants to see a ferry run between her city and the isolated native communities of Klemtu, Hartley Bay and Bella Bella. Currently all ferry service from those communities goes to Prince Rupert.

But Monaghan says that three-day-a-week ferry to Kitimat from the villages would have major benefits for all the communities involved.

The native communities would benefit from the increased access to the health  and education facilities in Kitimat, extra fresh food that could be shipped over and the possibility for cultural tourism in the future. Kitimat would benefit from the new source of educated workers who could fill the many vacant jobs in Kitimat’s service industries and the upcoming industrial jobs from projects like Shell’s LNG terminal.

“The last time I looked Bella Bella and Klemtu had 60 – 80 percent unemployment in their communities. One of the reasons for this is that they can’t get a job because they don’t have the education,” says Monaghan.

“If we can get these people trained and get them their Grade 12 or whatever they need, then they can get into the work force.”

The Ferries that currently stop in Klemtu and Bella Bella are run by BC Ferries as part of the Inside Passage route between Prince Rupert and Port Hardy. Ferry access to Hartley Bay is run by the Gitga’at First Nation and also goes to Prince Rupert. But Monaghan says that the idea is not meant to compete with Prince Rupert for traffic.

“It would just be another service. Its not there to be competing with anybody,” says Monoghan.

Earlier this month a task force that was looking into the issue finished their feasibility study for the new ferry service, which has now been given over to the City of Kitimat and the Provincial Government. The report has not been made public yet, so Monaghan couldn’t go into the specifics of what the study says.

While Kitimat helped fund the task force along with the Northern Development Initiative Trust, they city council has not officially opted into anything yet, neither have the villages although Monaghan says that they appear to be in favour of the idea.