The MV Burrard Chinook is on the inlet for sea trials, the next step in the process before it goes into service.
“We are very pleased with the launch of Burrard Chinook,” said Dan Mountain, spokesperson for TransLink. “We have yet to get an official audit from Transport Canada, but we expect it to be in service by the end of the summer. “
On the water, the captains of the Chinook will test its speed, emergency stops, turns and mooring.
“Everything seems OK. We expect it to go well. We just need to do a follow-up process, ”Mountain said.
TransLink ordered the new SeaBus in 2017 to support 10-minute crossings at peak times, but it has been hampered by delays and a global pandemic.
Upon arrival from the Dutch company Damen Shipyards Group in the summer of 2019, engineers determined that the vessel was not seaworthy. The Chinook sat several inches lower in the water than the rest of the fleet, which would make docking difficult and potentially dangerous in rough waters. They attributed the problem to the excess weight added when TransLink changed the design to include air conditioning and a more sophisticated emissions control system.
To remedy the problem, they had to install larger bulbous bows, making the SeaBus more buoyant. At the time, they hoped to put the Chinook into service by summer 2020, but ordering parts from Singapore took more than a year when COVID-19 shut down overseas operations.
Despite the massive delays, reengineering and construction, TransLink will not be financially underwater, Mountain said.
“We’ve had a lot of contract discussions with Damen Shipyards, but after all it’s still below the original budget of $ 29 million,” he said.
The Chinook made the trip to the Lonsdale Quay terminal from Point Hope Shipyard in Victoria on its own on Tuesday.
As to when the 10-minute rush hour crossings return will depend on ridership, Mountain said.
Across TransLink, boardings are about 40% of what they were in May 2019, before the pandemic. SeaBus traffic in particular still accounts for around 30% of May 2019 volumes, which is likely due to the fact that it primarily serves inner-city commuters.
“Our projections predict an overall system-wide rebound of between 70% and 90% at some point next year,” Mountain said. “It will be demand driven, of course.”