Topping the agenda for BC Ferries’ chief executive officer Mark Collins are plans to roll out LNG to further newbuilds and focus on customer systems and small communities
After being promoted to president and chief executive officer in April this year, Mark Collins has a firm focus for the ferry operator – its customers, the communities it serves and use of LNG are all at the top of the list.
He told Passenger Ship Technology that the good work of his predecessor Mike Corrigan (now CEO at the industry organisation Interferry) meant that the ferry operator could reach the next stage of development.
“The last 10 years have been very focused on safety operations and the financial situation – Mike Corrigan did a fantastic job with a new culture of safety and binging us to a stable operating and financial position,” Mr Collins explained.
Therefore, “we are grateful to stand on the shoulders of this work and go to next stage,” which he said would focus on putting the customer at the centre of everything the ferry operator does.
Mr Collins expanded “Some of our systems are older; the way customers purchase tickets and the reservations system is a little inflexible.” Therefore BC Ferries is “really focusing on providing a modern 21st century experience of booking online.”
He explained: “Our customers want certainty of travel – they want information in their hands so they can make good decisions on travel.”
The ferry operator is also making a “real push” towards engaging with the smaller communities that it serves, as it is often their lifeline, providing their only way in and out.
The company aims to be a partner to these communities and has rolled out a new strategy to create ferry management and community engagement teams to bring communities into discussions so that they have input into decisions the company makes.
Mr Collins singled out an example: the company is building two new 44-car ships at Damen shipyard. Before it is contracted BC Ferries has been to the community to ask what attributes they want in the new ships, what they like about the older ships that they are replacing that they would like to see mirrored in the new ferry and what schedules they want the new ferries to follow.
BC Ferries will then build these aspects into its discussions with the shipyard and during the vessel design phase present the communities with the design at least two or three times to bring in their input. “This means that they are not just presented with a fait accompli, they are part of the evolution of the design,” said Mr Collins.
LNG is also top of the list when it comes to newbuilds, however the size of the ship counts when it comes to deciding what fuel to use. Mr Collins said that on ships of 100 cars or more it made sense, as the bigger the ship, the better the economics.
The capital plan for BC Ferries is that it will order 12 more newbuilds over 10 years and Mr Collins said nine of these were likely to be fuelled by LNG. However, the first vessels on the orderbook, the two 44-car ferries mentioned above, will have diesel-electric/battery hybrid power as they are too small for the economies of scale to be gained by LNG.
However, next up will be three 100-car ferries where studies indicate that it would makes sense to use LNG. After this will come 300-400 car capacity vessels where LNG is a “no-brainer”.
Retrofitting current vessels with LNG is also a strategy that the company is pursuing. Its largest vessels, Spirit of BC and Spirit of Vancouver Island, are to be retrofitted by Remontowa shipyard in Poland. Spirit of BC will be retrofitted in Q4 this year, followed by Spirit of Vancouver Island in Q4 next year.
Mr Collins said “For us to retrofit current ships the economics of retrofit have to be as good as new ships, so they need to be really big in size to make the economics pay. There is a really nice payback on our Spirit class project.”
Snapshot CV Mark Collins
Mark Collins had held leadership positions with BC Ferries for 11 years before becoming president and chief executive officer in April this year. He was BC Ferries’ vice president, engineering from 2004-2012 and vice president, strategic planning and community engagement from 2014-2017.
His 35 years of marine experience also includes being president of Rolls-Royce Marine Brazil and Rolls-Royce Marine Italy, and several years as an engineer on oil tankers, bulk carriers and container vessels. Mr Collins has a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in transport and logistics from the University of British Columbia, a Bachelor of Arts in marine geography from Saint Mary’s University and a Diploma of mechanical (marine) engineering from Memorial University of Newfoundland.