Queen of Alberni
Official No: 0370066
Place Built: N. Vancouver, BC
Builder: Vancouver Shipyards
Year Built: 1976
Year Rebuilt: 1984
Length: 139.29 m
Breadth: 27.13 m
Gross Tons: 5,863
Service Speed: 19 knots
The Queen of Alberni is one of the two ferries that operates on BC Ferry's Tsawwassen - Duke Point route. She is the third of 5 C-class vessels operated by BC Ferries. Although her hull and engines are the same as her four sister ships (Queen of Coquitlam, Queen of Cowichan, Queen of Oak Bay, and Queen of Surrey), her superstructure is quite different. The Alberni has a lower overall vehicle capacity, but a much higher over-height vehicle capacity.
Today Almost every morning of the week, at 0515, the Queen of Alberni leaves Duke Point on a two hour journey to Tsawwassen. Along with the Queen of New Westminster, the Alberni makes 4 round trips a day on this route, ending the day around 0045 the next day. These two ferries are the workhorses of the fleet.
The Queen of Alberni has a unique layout on her passenger deck. The area is quite a bit smaller than the other C-class ships, although it still contains a sizeable lounge, a cafeteria (smaller, but same menu), snack bar, gift shop, washrooms, elevator, and escalator. Due to the smaller passenger area, it can get crowded when busy. Outside, the Queen of Alberni has a lot of space for passengers to walk around and enjoy the scenery.
The Queen of Alberni is a double-ended ferry. She has two bridges (one at each end) and can be operated in both directions. This allows the ferry to both sail in and sail out of a berth without having to turn around. There is a propeller at both ends of the ship, and each propeller can be powered by either one or both of the 5,930 hp diesel engines. Although she has the same amount of total horsepower as her sister ships, the Queen of Alberni is lighter and can sustain speeds higher than her 19knot service speed making her one of the fastest ferries in the fleet.
The evacuation system on the Queen of Alberni consists of 3 stations on either side of the sun deck (one level above the main passenger deck). All together, these stations have the capacity to evacuate 1,200 passengers via davits/life rafts. The ferry is also equipped with two rescue boats at each end located on the outside of the lower car deck.
Built in 1976, the Queen of Alberni was the third of three C-class ferries launched that year. She was primarily built to handle over-height truck traffic between Vancouver and Victoria, and therefore was built without an upper vehicle deck. The ferry cost approximately 17 million dollars to build. Only eight years later, the Alberni underwent a 9 million dollar refit in which the passenger deck was lifted and a new car deck was installed, increasing the ferry's capacity by 150 cars. At the same time, the passenger deck was extended length-wise and breadth-wise to increase passenger capacity by almost 400 people.
Over the first 30 years of her life, the Queen of Alberni has had more than her share of accidents and experiences. Originally placed on the Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay route, it only took 3 years before the ferry had her first major accident. On August 9th, 1979, the Queen of Alberni ran aground on Collission Reef, at the west entrance of Active Pass near Galiano Island. The accident occurred at 0710, as the ferry was entering Active Pass on its way to Tsawwassen. The accident seems to have been partly caused by the ferry's lack of manoeuvrability at full speed and the large number of pleasure craft crowded around the entrance of the pass at the time. After the grounding, the tide went out and the ship listed heavily to its side (as much as 30 degrees), giving some the concern that it might roll over. Only six of the 93 passengers and 21 sustained minor injuries, and all were safely evacuated via the ferry's evacuation slide and transferred to the Queen of Tsawwassen which was on the scene. The vehicle deck, however, was the scene of carnage. Large trucks were tipped over and cars were squashed. There was also the fear of explosion or fire with gas leaks. Fourteen hours after the accident and at high tide, five tug boats managed to pull the Queen of Alberni off the rocks and tow her into Village Bay on Mayne Island. The next day she was towed to Tsawwassen were she was unloaded and damage was assessed. Several trucks and cars were destroyed or damaged, but the only casualty was a race horse.
According to a newspaper article, a man fell off the Queen of Alberni while in dock on Boxing Day in 1986 and was killed by the ferry's propeller.
Although much smaller in scale than the Active Pass incident, an accident involving the Queen of Alberni on June 16, 1989, resulted in more injuries. A mechanical malfunction caused the ferry to crash into the Departure Bay ferry terminal. The accident sent 6 people to hospital with minor injuries.
On August 20th, 1991, the captain of the Queen of Alberni helped the Coast Guard catch an American fishing boat illegally fishing in Georgia Strait. According to newspaper reports, the captain's complaining of fishing boats in his path was picked up by the Canadian Coast Guard, who quickly responded and arrested the offending fishermen.
Another major accident involving the Queen of Alberni occurred on the morning of March 12th, 1992. Eight minutes after leaving Tsawwassen for Nanaimo, the ferry collided head on into the port side of the coal-carrying Japanese freighter, Shinwa Maru which had just left Roberts Bank with a full load. The ferry was carrying 235 passengers and 90 vehicles at the time of the collision, while the fully-loaded freighter weighed about 156,000 tonnes. The collision resulted in 11 passengers and 6 crew members being sent to hospital with a variety of injuries. The Alberni sustained major damage to its front end, while the Shinwa Maru was holed above the waterline. After the accident, the ferry made its way back to Tsawwassen where the injured were transferred to ambulances and the ferry was unloaded. Weather played a role in the collision as visibility was less than 200 meters in dense fog. However, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada found that the masters of both vessels were at fault because "all available means were not used... to assess risk of, and avert, collision in a rapidly developing close-quarters situation." (Transportation Safety Board of Canada, report M92W1022)
What regularly would have been a two hour ferry ride on Friday, December 14th, 2001, became a 7 hour and 30 minute trip in the middle of a major Pacific storm. The Queen of Alberni left Duke Point for Tsawwassen at 0520. With winds exceeding 100 km/h across the southern coast, docking at Tsawwassen was impossible. Finally the ferry was diverted to Horseshoe Bay where it arrived at 1250. A window on the ferry was broken and panels and light fixtures fell from the ceiling during the long and stormy voyage.
As stated before, the Queen of Alberni was originally placed on the Tsawwassen - Swartz Bay route especially to service over-height traffic. In the following years, she operated on most of the major routes including Horseshoe Bay - Nanaimo and Horseshoe Bay - Langdale. In 1990, the ferry was moved to the newly created Mid-Island Express route between Tsawwassen and Departure Bay. In 1997, the route's terminal on Vancouver Island was moved to the newly built Duke Point terminal south of Nanaimo. Since then, the Queen of Alberni has been the main vessel based out of Duke Point on that route.
Origin of Name Queen of Alberni - Named after the town of Port Alberni located on the west coast of Vancouver Island at the head of Alberni Inlet. The forestry town, established in 1861, has a population of just under 20,000 today. The town is named after Pedro de Alberni, a Spanish army officer who established a settlement at Friendly Cove in Nootka Sound for the Spanish in 1790. ("Alberni, Pedro de" - Encyclopedia of British Columbia).
For Further Reading
Bannerman, Gary and Patricia. The Ships of British Columbia. Surrey: Hancock House Publishers, 1985.