MV QUEEN OF THE NORTH
E-mail: John Hammersmark
Page last updated: 9:01PM March 25, 2006
To enable the ferry to hold additional cars, it is equipped with a raise-able platform deck on the vehicle level. The Queen of the North along with the Queen of Prince Rupert have bows that raise while docked bow-first to allow traffic to load and unload via the front of the vessel.
The Queen of the North (and all the other northern vessels) is a so-called "single compartment ship," that is if only one of the hull's several watertight compartments is flooded the ferry should stay afloat. This is now considered unsafe and the ferry was due to be replaced before 2012 when Transport Canada plans to enforce new regulations.
The Queen of the North is powered by two 7,800 horsepower diesel engines which turn two variable pitch propellers. The ship is the fastest in the BC Ferry fleet, with a service speed of 19 knots and a maximum speed of 23 knots. In the event of a serious emergency, evacuation would be through a Jacobs Ladder system to access life rafts at water level. The Queen of the North has four evacuation systems, which have a combined capacity of 750 people. In addition to the life rafts, there are two 53-person life boats, and a 5-person rescue boat.
Unlike ferries on the south coast, the Queen of the North's crew live on board the vessel. Each crew group is divided into two 12-hour shifts. There are two complete crews, each one working 14 days on, 14 days off. With a crew ranging from 60-65, the Queen of the North has the largest crew of any ferry in the fleet.
The Stena Danica was purchased by BC Ferries in 1974 for $13.8 million because of a shortage in ships and capacity. She was immediately renamed Queen of Surrey and put into service between Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay. The single-ended ship was found unsuitable for the short routes on the south coast. For several years the Queen of Surrey was parked at the Deas Dock maintenance facility. In 1980 the ferry underwent a major overhaul to prepare her for the northern routes and she was renamed the Queen of the North. Her first trip between Prince Rupert and Port Hardy was on May 29th, 1980.
As the flagship of the fleet, the Queen of the North was sometimes pressed into special duty in the 1980's. On May 1, 1986, the ferry took Prince Charles and Princess Diana from Nanaimo to Vancouver to open the Expo '86 world fair. On 'Port Day' in 1988, the Queen of the North was open for public tours at Ballantyne Pier.
The Queen of the North was pulled out of service in mid-October 1994 following the findings into the causes of the sinking of the Estonia in the Baltic Sea. On September 28, 1994, the Estonia ferry sank between Estonia and Sweden, killing 852 of the 989 passengers on board. The cause was found to be a fault in the bow visor of the vessel which broke off in heavy seas allowing water to enter the car deck. Since the Queen of the North and Queen of Prince Rupert have similar designs, both ferries were pulled from service on the Friday before the Thanksgiving long weekend to have their bow doors welded shut. In the process, passengers and freight were stranded on the Queen Charlotte Islands. The ferries returned to service less than a week later. This emergency safety precaution was later undone and additional safety measures were put in place to compensate.
On the morning of September 16th, 2000, the Queen of the North played a role in a tragic story that took place on the waters off Prince Rupert. In the early hours of the morning, seven teens left Dodge Cove in an open boat to cross Prince Rupert harbour. In heavy seas, the boat was swamped and overturned. When word went out later that morning that the seven were missing, the Canadian Coast Guard organized a search effort. Three crew members from the Queen of the North, which was at dock in Prince Rupert, were sent out on the ferry's rescue boat. They rescued one member of the group who hanging onto a buoy in the middle of the harbour. They also picked up three others who had made it to shore on a nearby island. Sadly, three members of the group perished.
In October, 2000, the Queen of the North underwent a major refit that saw the interior of the vessel refurbished, the cafeteria redesigned, and the emergency equipment updated.
The ferry played the role of ambulance on July 15, 2005. A man at Hartley Bay (a small outpost along the Inside Passage south of Prince Rupert) suffered what was believed to be a heart attack. Due to bad weather and low clouds, an air ambulance evacuation was impossible. The nearby Queen of the North was diverted to pick the man up and take him to Prince Rupert. With the help of the ferry and two doctors and two nurses on board at the time, the man made it safely to a hospital.
Bannerman, Gary and Patricia. The Ships of British Columbia. Surrey: Hancock House Publishers, 1985.
The Inside Passage - A Travellers Guide. BC Ferries, 2005.