Queen of New Westminster
Official No: 0322953
Place Built: Victoria, BC
Builder: Victoria Machinery Depot
Year Built 1964
Years Rebuilt: 1973, 1991
Overall Length: 129.96 m
Length: 120.24 m
Breadth: 23.20 m
Gross Tons: 8,785.86
Service Speed: 20.3 knots
The Queen of New Westminster is one of the oldest, fastest, and most reliable ferries in the fleet. Built in 1964, she was one of seven similarly designed ferries that served as the foundation of the BC Ferries service for decades. All seven have gone through major rebuilds over their lives and the Queen of New Westminster is no exception. She has been both stretched and lifted. Today, she is often confused for a V-class ship (Victoria Class) due to her similar profile. However, the New West has more in common with the B-class (Burnaby Class) ships that have never been "lifted". Truly, the Queen of New Westminster is in a class of her own, having much more powerful engines and a unique role in the modern-day BC Ferries fleet.
Today The Queen of New Westminster is one of the two "workhorses" on the Tsawwassen - Duke Point route. Her day starts around 0500, when she is loaded at Tsawwassen for the 0515 sailing to Vancouver Island. On most days, she does not tie up until 0100 the next day after discharging her last load. The Queen makes 4 round trips daily on the "mid-island" express route, a scenic trip across the mostly open waters of Georgia Strait. Although the Queen of New Westminster accommodates all traffic, her lower car deck is set up for to maximize over-height capacity. In 2008, the New Westminster will undergo another major refit and be redeployed to the Tsawwassen - Swartz Bay run.
Onboard the Queen of New Westminster you will find a lot of different places to sit and enjoy the voyage. The large forward lounge offers a panoramic view ahead of the ferry. There are also many seats mid-ship along both sides of the vessel. At the stern of the main passenger deck is the cafeteria that offers the standard White Spot Triple "O" menu. On the upper deck is another large lounge at the stern as well as semi-sheltered seating outside at mid ship. Both passenger decks have plenty of outside space to enjoy the fresh air and beautiful scenery. Other amenities on the ship include a gift shop and snack bar. The Queen of New Westminster is fully accessible to the disabled with elevator access to all decks.
The Queen of New Westminster is powered by four diesel engines producing a combined 16,841 horsepower, almost double that of the similarly sized V-class ferries (such as the Queen of Saanich). This gives the New Westminster a service speed of 20.3 knots, which according to the BC Ferries fleet information, is the highest in the whole fleet. The Queen of New Westminster is a single-ended vessel, meaning it has to turn around at one end of the trip so vehicles can drive straight on and off.
The evacuation system on the Queen of New Westminster is similar to most other major vessels in the fleet. It consists of 6 stations (three on each side) on the upper passenger deck. At each station there are life-rafts along with davits to lower them to the water. BC Ferries puts the combined evacuation capacity of these 6 stations at 1,500 people. In addition to the life-rafts, there are three 52-person life boats and one rescue boat.
The Queen of New Westminster was built at the Victoria Machinery Depot as part of BC Ferries first major fleet expansion project. She was the ninth of fourteen vessels built for BC Ferries between 1959 and 1965. Launched on May 12, 1964, the new Queen of New Westminster was put on public display on New Westminster's waterfront before making her inaugural run on August 4. A few years later, most of BC Ferries' larger vessels including the New West had platform decks installed on the car deck to increase capacity by about 40 cars.
In October of 1971, the Queen of New Westminster had her first major accident. While unloading at Departure Bay, the ferry abruptly left the dock causing a car to fall into the water. Fortunately the driver and passenger in the car, both from Alberta, were rescued.
In an effort to increase fleet capacity, the Queen of New Westminster (and her sister ships), was cut in half and stretched at a cost of about $2.5 million in 1973. A 25 meter mid-section increased the vehicle and passenger capacities and allowed for expanded food services and a newsstand. The mid-ship upper deck outside seating areas that are still on the ferry today were also part of this expansion. The stretching work was done by Burrard Drydock in Vancouver. At this time the Queen of New Westminster was a regular vessel on the Horseshoe Bay - Departure Bay route.
Registered Length (m)
Original (with platforms)
In anticipation of the ferry being placed on the new Mid-Island Express route, the New Westminster was drydocked in Victoria by Vancouver Shipyards for a $35.4 million major rebuild in 1991. In addition to four new powerful engines, new propellers, new bow thruster, and a sewage treatment system, the ferry received a new car deck. A similar operation had been done on what became the four V-class ships in the early 1980s. However, the New Westminster's new upper car deck is higher than those of the V-class, allowing her to carry more "tall" cars (like vans). In addition, the platform decks on the lower car deck were removed to allow for more over height vehicles. At the time, vehicle capacity increased from 192 to 347. The finished project initially caused problems of extreme vibration in the cafeteria area at the stern of the vessel. An additional $200,000 was required to fix this problem although at times travellers today may wonder if it really was ever fixed!
Another very unfortunate incident that involved the Queen of New Westminster on the morning of August 13, 1992 was one of the worst accidents in BC Ferries history in terms of loss of life. A van carrying visitors from Alberta was thrown from the upper car deck onto the lower car deck and then into the water when the ferry left the dock as it was being loaded. Of the six people in the van, three were rescued and three died (a woman and her two daughters). In addition to the normal Transportation Safety Board (TSB) and Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigations, an official inquiry was undertaken by former chief justice Nathan Nemetz, which resulted in numerous recommendations regarding loading procedures. The TSB concluded the causes of the mishap:
"Established clearance procedures were not followed and the ferry departed prematurely from the berth. Contributing to this occurrence were the shore and shipboard personnel's preoccupation with maintaining the ferry schedule and communication problems associated with the use of portable radios by terminal personnel." From: TSB Report M92W1057
BC Ferries assumed the blame for the accident. An out of court settlement was reached with the survivor who lost his family. Two BC Ferry employees were fired and an additional six were demoted as a result of the tragic incident. Bystander, Peter Karo, who helped rescue the van's seriously injured driver and attempted to free others from the submerged van received the Governor General's medal of bravery. In response to various recommendations, BC Ferries implemented improved loading procedures at its terminals.
Ten years later to the day of the ramp incident, the Queen of New Westminster was part of the story of another marine disaster. On the morning of August 13, 2002, the fishing boat Cap Rouge II capsized near the mouth of the Fraser River resulting in the death of 5 people on board including two children. Responding to a radio report of the capsizing, the Queen of New Westminster arrived on the scene 20 minutes later and was employed as a windbreaker for the rescue attempt. The ferry's crew launched their rescue craft and the two survivors of the capsizing were taken on board the ferry until they were transferred to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) vessel Nadon.
The Queen of New Westminster assisted in another rescue on August 2, 2005. The ferry responded to a sinking pleasure craft near Nanaimo and acted as a windbreak until Coast Guard vessels could arrive.
In the fall of 2007, the Queen of New Westminster began an extensive refit to extend her service life by several more years. While most remaining ferries from her era are in the process of being retired and sold, it seems BC Ferries has plans for the New Westminster for many years ahead.
Origin of Name Queen of New Westminster - Named after the city of New Westminster, a suburb located just east of the city of Vancouver on the north shore of the Fraser River. New Westminster (nicknamed the "Royal City") was named by Queen Victoria herself, and according to the Encyclopedia of British Columbia, is the "oldest incorporated municipality west of Ontario." New Westminster's current suburb status belies her historical importance. For 9 years beginning in 1859, the city was the capital city of the colony of British Columbia. It was an important sawmill, cannery, and commercial town well into the 20th century before giving way to Vancouver. ("New Westminster" - Encyclopedia of British Columbia).
For Further Reading
Bannerman, Gary and Patricia. The Ships of British Columbia. Surrey: Hancock House Publishers, 1985.
Favelle, Peter. The Queens of British Columbia: a detailed account of the ships in the B.C. Ferry fleet. North Vancouver: Discovery Magazine, 1974.
Griffiths, Garth, and H.L. Cadieux. Dogwood Fleet. Nanaimo: Cadieux and Griffiths, 1967.