Investigation is underway into the feasibility of offering commercial passenger ferry service from Prince Rupert to Dodge Cove, Oona River and Hunt’s Inlet.
A report prepared by researcher Debra Febril for the Skeena — Queen Charlotte Regional District was presented at the March 20 meeting as Dodge Cove director Des Nobels and Oona River director Karl Bergman sought to proceed to the next stage of gauging interest in the communities through a Community Needs Assessment Survey to be sent out to residents.
The proposed ferry service would operate year-round with six round-trip sailings per week and a minimum of four per week to Dodge Cove, with three round-trip sailings per week proposed for Oona River and Hunt’s Inlet. The regional district recommended a vessel that could carry a minimum of 12 passengers with additional space for small freight or cargo.
“Improving access by small passenger ferry service will result in direct benefits for the communities and the region overall,” read the executive summary of the report.
“[The study] also finds that enhancing passenger ferry service in the Skeena — Queen Charlotte Regional District requires a strategic balance between public and private entities to ensure the level of service offered to these communities is sustainable and cost-effective over the long term.”
However, cost estimates included in the report show there is a gap between expected revenue and expected operational costs. Febril noted the Prince Rupert School District paid Metlakatla Ferry Services $123,049 in 2013 for a five-day per week round trip to Metlakatla and Dodge Cove, while the annual revenue to be expected from a Dodge Cove Service would be between $18,720 and $22,464 based on fares of $5 or $6 others in the region charge while the revenue for the Oona River and Hunts Inlet Service would be approximately $86,112.
The board voted in favour of sending out the Community Needs Assessment in order to continue to gauge interest in the service.