Spirit of Vancouver Island


Official No: 0816503
Place Built: Victoria, BC
Builder: Integrated Ferry Constructors Ltd.
Year Built: 1994
Vehicles: 470
Passengers: 2,052
Crew: 48
Overall Length: 167.57 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 Vancouver Island was the second of two "Spirit Class" ("S" Class) ships built for BC Ferries in the early 1990's. Along with her sister ship, the Spirit of British Columbia 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 Vancouver Island is based out of Swartz Bay 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.

Onboard the ferry there are numerous services, the most of any of the other ships in the fleet. The Spirit of Vancouver Island 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, a snack bar, and the Seawest Lounge ($10 per seat). There are large free 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 Vancouver Island also features a large Passages gift shop near the forward lounge on the main passenger deck. Both of the Spirits also have a few staterooms and conference rooms on board that can be rented prior to the trip.

The 4 diesel engines on the Spirit of Vancouver Island 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 be lowered to handle additional 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.


The Spirit of Vancouver Island was built in pieces at several locations around the province beginning in the fall of 1991. 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. Construction was completed in January 1994; the cost of the new ferry was approximately $130 million.

On September 14, 2000, the Spirit of Vancouver Island was involved in a serious collision that left 2 people dead. Just after departing Swartz Bay, the pleasure boat Star Ruby sailed into the path of the oncoming ferry, despite warning blasts from the ferry's horn. While there remain several unanswered questions, the Transportation Safety Board found that neither vessel took precautionary measures to prevent a collision. For the full in-depth TSB report on the incident, read Report Number M00W0220 .


1994 - February 19 - BC Ferries commissions the new Spirit of Vancouver Island .
1994 - March 17 - The SoVI makes her inaugural run between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen.
2000 - September 14 - The Spirit of Vancouver Island collided with the small pleasure craft Star Ruby killing its two occupants.
2002 - July 21 - A hard landing at Swartz Bay slightly injured 4 people and caused some damage to the ferry and dock structures.
2004 - March - The Passages Gift Shop on board the Spirit of Vancouver Island was expanded by 75% during an annual refit.
2005 - July 27 - A Mayne Islander jumped off the SoVI with two garbage bags containing his belongings as the ferry approached Active Pass from Tsawwassen. Having missed the Gulf Island ferry, the man was desperate to get to his baseball game on Mayne Island. He refused attempts by the crew of the ferry to rescue him but was later arrested and banned from BC Ferries.
2006 - January - The Spirit of Vancouver Island underwent a $13 million dollar refit that saw major renovations to the passenger areas including new carpets, seating, and a new pay-lounge.

Origin of Name

Spirit of Vancouver Island - The "Spirit" prefix has only been applied to the two S-class ferries. The ferry is named for Vancouver Island, the largest island in British Columbia, and on the west coast of North and South America. Most of the Island's population of 700,000 lives in its south and southeast coast regions; the main cities on the Island are Victoria, Nanaimo, Courtenay, and Campbell River. Vancouver Island was a separate colony of Britain from 1849 until 1866 when it joined with British Columbia. The Island's principle industries historically were the fur trade, fishing, mining, and above all lumber. Today these primary industries are in decline but tourism has taken their place. Vancouver Island's landscape is beautiful and spectacular with towering mountains, deep fjords, towering forests, lush valleys, and sprawling beaches. Its climate is varied but generally mild; the west coast is very wet while the east coast is quite dry. Vancouver Island, like Vancouver, is named after the British explorer who arrived in the area in the 1ate 1700s.

About This Site - Contact: - Last updated on February 16, 2008

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