Spirit of British Columbia

Official No: 0815277
Place Built: Victoria, BC
Builder: Integrated Ferry Constructors Ltd.
Year Built: 1993
Vehicles: 470
Passengers: 2,052
Crew: 48
Overall Length: 167.5 m
Length: 159.04 m
Breadth: 27.22 m
Gross Tons: 18,747.44
Service Speed: 19.5 knots
Horsepower: 21,394


The Spirit of British Columbia was the first of two "Spirit Class" ("S" Class) ships built for BC Ferries in the early 1990's. Along with her sister ship, the Spirit of Vancouver Island , she is the largest ferry in the fleet. These two super ferries are the main vessels on the Tsawwassen - Swartz Bay route. The Spirit of British Columbia is based out of Tsawwassen and makes 4 round trips per day to the Island. Since they were built, the Spirit vessels have been the flagships of the fleet, only giving way for a short time to the ill-fated PacifiCats.


The Spirit of British Columbia is the main ship on BC Ferries busiest route, between Vancouver (Tsawwassen) and Victoria (Swartz Bay). As well as being the largest in the fleet, the Spirit vessels also have the most amenities. The Spirit of British Columbia is fully accessible to the disabled with 3 elevators, two of which access both passenger decks. There are three places to eat aboard the ferry: the 200-seat Pacific Buffet, the 297-seat cafeteria, and the snack bar. There are large lounges on both passenger levels, and on the outside one can walk completely around the upper passenger deck. Sometimes passenger can access an open third deck (bridge level) at mid-ship to enjoy the beautiful scenery across the Strait and through the Gulf Islands. The Spirit of British Columbia also features a large Passages gift shop near the forward lounge on the main passenger deck. The S Class ships are also unique in that they have staterooms and conference rooms that can be reserved for the trip.

The 4 diesel engines on the Spirit of British Columbia combine to produce 21,000 horsepower and move the ferry at a service speed of 19.5 knots. The ferry is a single-ended vessel, meaning it has to back into dock at one end. This is usually done at the Swartz Bay end; on the Tsawwassen side the ferry goes in bow first. The ship is navigated from a large totally-enclosed bridge high above its bow. The Spirit of British Columbia has three car decks. The upper car deck can only accommodate under-height vehicles; the lower deck has space for over-height vehicles in addition to a middle platform-deck that can handle under-height vehicles. In total, the ferry has the capacity to carry 470 cars. The ferry's bow and stern doors are wider than the older ferries, to enable two lanes of trucks to embark or disembark at the same time to allow for quicker loading/unloading times.

In the event of an emergency, the Spirit of British Columbia is equipped with 6 marine evacuation chutes on each side of the upper passenger deck. Each evacuation station has a number of life rafts and a evacuation capacity of 400 passengers. There are also 4 rescue boats located on the outside of the upper passenger deck; two on each side, near the forward end of the ship.


At the time of her building, the Spirit of British Columbia was the largest ship ever built in British Columbia. The ferry was built in pieces at several locations. The hull was built in two sections: the 200 ft. bow piece at Allied Shipbuilders Ltd. in North Vancouver and the 340 ft. stern piece was built at Yarrows Ltd. in Victoria. The two pieces were joined at Esquimalt, then towed to the Fraser Surrey Docks. Also towed to Fraser Surrey Docks was the superstructure, in three pieces, which had been built along the Fraser River in Delta. After the superstructure was pieced together on the hull, the vessel was towed back to Delta where work was completed on the superstructure. The ferry was finally towed to Esquimalt for interior outfitting and finishing touches. Altogether, the building process took just over 2 years at the cost of $137.6 million dollars.

The Spirit of British Columbia commenced service between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay in mid-April 1993.

The crew on the Spirit of British Columbia rescued 3 people off of a foundering sailboat near Tsawwassen during a windstorm. The ferry itself was delayed because of the winds, and was just arriving at Tsawwassen around 0100 on March 31st, 1997, when the Coast Guard requested assistance.

BC Ferries carried its 500 millionth passenger on the Spirit of British Columbia on November 29th, 2000.

A $14 million upgrade of the Spirit of British Columbia was completed in March 2005. Among the "improvements" was the creation of the 93-seat Seawest Lounge where passengers pay an extra $7 dollars for their own seat with free coffee and newspapers, an expanded gift shop, and a larger menu in the cafeteria.

On July 27th, 2005, a man jumped off the Spirit of British Columbia as it approached Active Pass and refused assistance, instead swimming to Mayne Island. He was later arrested, banned from using BC Ferries, and charged with mischief.

Origin of Name

Spirit of British Columbia - The "Spirit" name has only been applied to the two super ferries built in 1993 and 1994. British Columbia is the third largest province in Canada, with a population of 4.2 million and an area of 365,948 square miles (about the size of France, Germany, and Belgium combined). British Columbia was given its name in 1858, when it became a British colony. In 1866, the colony of Vancouver Island merged with British Columbia, and in 1871 B.C. joined the confederation of Canada.

The naming of the ferry was not without controversy. An old fish packer based out of Delta was named Spirit of B.C. and the Canadian Coast Guard was reticent to allow another vessel to have a smiliar name for safety reasons. The fish packer's owner wouldn't give up the name without considerable reimbursement from BC Ferries who went ahead and registered the Spirit of British Columbia name anyways. A few days after the story made the news, the Spirit of B.C. was stolen. It was later found in Bellingham with a new name and high-tech equipment used for smuggling. (Alan Daniels The Vancouver Sun. Vancouver, B.C.: Jan 28, 1993. p. A.1)

For Further Reading

Spalding, Andrea and David, and Lawrence Pitt. An Altitude Superguide: BC Ferries and the Canadian West Coast . Canmore: Altitiude Publishing Canada Ltd., 1996.

About This Site - Contact: - Last updated on October 30, 2006

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