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Translink Buzzer Blog

We’re building a new SeaBus!

The newest SeaBus will look a lot like the Burrard Pacific Breeze - Photo by Charlotte Boychuk.

It’s official. We’ve awarded a contract to have a second replacement SeaBus built!

Why we need a new SeaBus

The Burrard Beaver and Burrard Otter are now both over 35 years old and nearing the end of their lifespans. Back in 2010, the Burrard Pacific Breeze was put in service as our very first replacement SeaBus since we started serving the North Shore from Vancouver via the Burrard Inlet in 1977! Over these past two years, the Burrard Pacific Breeze has helped relieve some of the pressure on our two older SeaBus work horses. Both the Burrard Beaver and Otter are safe and certified by Transport Canada. However, they don’t comply with all current marine standards. Instead of retrofitting these vessels, it was determined back in 2009 that the best course of action was to have a second SeaBus built in order to keep the fleet in good working condition.

Info about the new vessel

The new vessel will be built by Damen Shipyards Group. Damen was awarded the bid as a result of a process that looked a number of factors including cost and experience. The new SeaBus will be based on the design of the Burrard Breeze, but it will be updated to improve efficiency and operations. Part of those improvements are in air quality emissions

Roll out of the new SeaBus

Fall 2014 is when we expect the new SeaBus to be in service. At that time, the plan is to retire the Burrard Otter. The Burrard Beaver will remain in service as a spare vessel since it is in better shape than the Otter and underwent a retrofit in 2011.

For more info, you’ll want to check the press release. We’re very excited about this new vessel, and I’ll be updating all of you on any major developments as we get closer to seeing the new vessel completed!


  • By Bryn, December 17, 2012 @ 1:30 pm

    While I’m definitely happy to see a refresh of the SeaBus fleet, it seems like the final result is going to be 3 DIFFERENT versions of the SeaBus in operation? So 3 different types of every spare part? 3 different maintenance schedules, 3 different sets of procedures?

    Did the contract award process put any value on maintaining compatibility between this new build and the last one? I’m sure there is a dollar figure associated with that.

    Well, if the design is being changed anyway, hopefully the new SeaBus will have front windows low enough that you can see out of them when you are sitting down, like the original two do. That’s the biggest failing I see with the Pacific Breeze, considering the tourist draw it has.

  • By Cliff, December 17, 2012 @ 2:07 pm

    Just a thought. How about taking the Burrard Beaver and repainting it to its original colours and putting era specific advertisements up from the 70s?

    It would be an opportunity to see some history in our current set of vehicles. After all, there isn’t anything else from 1977 still moving people around here. (Except infrastructure)

  • By Nick, December 17, 2012 @ 3:01 pm

    Very nice!

    Let’s hope the folks at TransLink can organize a fun naming contest! I’ll miss having that cute animal name of the Burrard Otter in the fleet as that vessel is retired.

  • By Tim Choi, December 17, 2012 @ 3:22 pm

    Hey, nothing says we can’t have a Burrard Otter II!

  • By Ed P from Victoria, BC, December 17, 2012 @ 3:57 pm

    Well, it’s great to invest in the fleet, but I looked up Damen, and see it’s a Dutch company, with no North American operations. Once again our provincial government shows absolutely no interest in supporting British Colombians and Canadians. Gotta keep those taxes low, even if we all go broke going it.

  • By peter b, December 17, 2012 @ 4:52 pm

    How about extending the Canada Line to 15th & Lonsdale???

    Can somebody please put this on the wish list?

  • By Marvin B, December 17, 2012 @ 6:27 pm

    Not BC built? Not even Canadian at all? Not compatible with the last build? Ummmmm… sounds like the geniuses at Translink are still in the business of financial mismanagement. Un-freaking-believable.

  • By Sheba, December 17, 2012 @ 6:30 pm

    I second Cliff’s idea about painting the Burrard Beaver in it’s original colours. Tourists will go nuts for it.

    Before dreaming about extending Skytrain to N Van, how about we try to build lines out to UBC and in Surrey, which have way more demand. I’d request extending the Expo Line another stop to 140th and Fraser Hwy to meet the Outpatient Centre and tie it in with the Expansion of Surrey Memorial Hospital.

  • By Chris M., December 17, 2012 @ 7:26 pm

    @ Ed and Marvin,

    I have friends in the Netherlands and am happy to see that they have equal opportunity in bidding.

    I trust that our friends in the Netherlands will keep Canada in mind during their procurement processes as well. We must continue to choose based on price and experience and expanded their horizon beyond Canada in order expect them to OUR industries to be accepted in the international market.

    I think that would be a great thing on the wish list. Of course.. after Broadway and probably Surrey.

  • By mike0123, December 17, 2012 @ 8:21 pm

    Bryn mentioned one of the problems with the latest seabus: the front/rear windows don’t go low enough.

    Other problems are that the rows of seats don’t line up with the doors and the seats themselves are uncomfortable and not durable. Instead of replacing the fabric every few years, they should replace the seats with more comfortable ones that can be cleaned.

    Hopefully, Translink’s learned from its last seabus procurement and the new seabus is specified better.

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, December 17, 2012 @ 8:29 pm

    Marvin and Ed: It’s great that you’re digging into the details. Let me expand on the details of the press release. Earlier this year we asked for bids on this new vessel. We received three in total. We also asked the Canadian manufacturer of the existing SeaBuses to bid, but a bid wasn’t submitted. Of the bids we received, only two made it to the short list. Of the two remaining bids, Damon received the highest score based on a number of factors including cost and experience.

    As for the build, the new vessel will be based on the Pacific Breeze. When possible, the same parts will be used in order keep costs low. Damen intends to use Canadian companies to provide help with maintenance on the vessel in the future.

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, December 17, 2012 @ 8:31 pm

    Mike: I’ve heard about the windows before and have been told the new vessel will not have these same windows. I’ll be collecting these and other helpful comments and sending them onto the SeaBus people. Thanks!

  • By Elfren Ordanza (VanTransitFan), December 18, 2012 @ 1:50 am

    My critics of the Burrard Pacific Breeze:
    – Windows at front/rear are too high
    – Fabric seats will not last
    – Doors open quite slowly
    – No aisles to walk down the middle unlike the original twin ferries

    Folks you don’t have to disagree on this. It’s just my opinion on the Breeze so therefore just respect my opinion.

  • By Eugene Wong, December 18, 2012 @ 7:47 am

    @ Robert Willis

    Why did that bid not make it to the short list?

  • By Sean Nelson, December 18, 2012 @ 8:24 am

    Let me second the comment about the front and rear windows. One of the best things about the Seabus is the view, and those windows block it rather than letting it in…

  • By ;-), December 18, 2012 @ 8:28 pm

    For those who have not see the original colours…

    The question is where would the old Seabuses be kept and maintained for use.

    Hope it does not become the Friendship 500

  • By Marvin B, December 19, 2012 @ 8:12 am

    Seems labour groups are pretty choked about this Sea bus being built in the Netherlands. I’m wondering how the tender for this project read. I’m wondering if it was truly an open process. I heard a representative from TransLink on the radio stating that there were a few bids (as Robert stated here) and said this one was the lowest cost. What I never hear is what does “lowest cost” actually mean. If it’s simply comparing cost from company A vs cost from company B, then it truly isn’t a fair comparison. Company A from Holland vs Company B from BC. Company A employs zero locals in the ship building process. Company B employs (?). I don’t know, but some. Some good paying, BC jobs. Those people go and buy groceries, coffee, cars, power tools, maid services, tablets, books, etc,etc,etc. What should be compared are the net benefits to the economy (or net liability, whatever the case). There must be a formula for figuring out such things. If not, then there should be! There should be some formula in place so that the cost of the project isn’t TransLink’s alone. All levels of government should shoulder some too in cases where local employment is created. This is only fair since these levels of government will receive tax dollars from these workers, from the businesses they frequent and from the spin off jobs. Since this is harder to figure out, I guess it won’t ever be done. What I wonder is if our own governments and public agencies won’t support employment in this province and country, who will?

  • By Andy, December 19, 2012 @ 2:43 pm

    From my experience of the bidding process, it is pretty fair with rules set to make sure it is as unbiased as possible. It just looks like the BC company didn’t make the deadline.

    It isn’t a total loss as the maintenance and parts will be Canadian. Given that the ship will be located here, there will be some local jobs for maintenance.

  • By Chris M., December 19, 2012 @ 6:38 pm

    I wouldn’t consider it a “loss” at all. Our industries compete in global markets. If our local companies are to expect a fair chance to bid for other places’ projects, we have to allow for others to do the same.

    Marvin, the Dutch “go and buy groceries, coffee, cars, power tools, maid services, tablets, books, etc,etc,etc” as well and I am as happy to purchase from them as any Canadian company. In the end, when we buy their currency, they have to buy and spend ours. It might not go to your favorite unions, but it’ll come back.

    What really matters is that all bidders follow the same quality, environmental and ethical standards and to choose the one that gives the best value for our limited money. I trust that Translink’s procurement department will continue to do a good job, as they generally have in the past.

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, December 20, 2012 @ 10:01 am

    Elfren and Sean: Thanks for those thoughts. I’ll forward them onto the SeaBus team. This is great feedback!

    Eugene and Marvin: Thanks for your comments. One of our evaluation criteria is to get the best value for money. Damen not only provided the best price, they also demonstrated that they that among the bids, Damon provided the most expertise when it comes to producing this vessel. They will also produce a vessel which will have the least impact on the environment compared to the other bid. The financial savings we’ll get with Damon, as opposed to the other BC bid, will provide us with money that can be put back into transit which will benefit the people of Metro Vancouver. In fact, as it stands, it will provide enough money to buy four buses.

    As you may know, TransLink does not have firm long term funding and is under some significant challenges providing our current level of service for a system that is being used by more people than ever before. We’ve been audited by the Province and our commissioner recently and been asked to examine every expense we make in order to provide the best value to tax payers and provide the best service possible to the people of Metro Vancouver.

  • By Eugene Wong, December 20, 2012 @ 12:50 pm

    @ Robert Willis

    Are the bids posted online, so that we can see it for ourselves?

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, December 21, 2012 @ 10:00 am

    Hi Eugene: Unfortunately, due to the sensitivity of the contract process we’re unable to post the bid specifics online. I can tell you that Damen’s bid was roughly around $2 million less than the local bid, and they scored higher in the bidding criteria which included the ability to carry out the contract on time. I also want to mention that we did ask the manufacturer of our existing three SeaBuses to submit a bid, but they declined.

  • By Bryn, December 21, 2012 @ 10:12 am

    How about the RFP documents and the bid evaluation criteria? I’d imagine those are public, even if we can’t see the individual bids?

  • By Eugene Wong, December 21, 2012 @ 12:47 pm

    @ Robert Willis

    Thanks, Robert.

    I agree with Bryn.

    I can’t help but be reminded of the Fast Cat Ferries. A local company said that that they would have bid, had they been given the chance. Even a public list of who was invited to bid, and who declined to bid, and who bid, would go a long ways to more accountability.

  • By Marvin B, December 21, 2012 @ 2:20 pm

    Hi Robert:

    I hear what you’re saying. About 2 million dollars saved. Under the current method of procurement that makes sense. TransLink is responsible only to its bottom line. What I’m suggesting is that this system fails people in this province. As a taxpayer whose tax dollars go to Translink, I think it’s reasonable to expect Translink will invest those dollars back locally whenever possible (any agency tax dollar funded, not only TransLink). If the current system makes that financially detrimental, then there’s a problem with the system. The province should be stepping up to make it local. Maybe even the feds. That way TransLink can maintain financial obligations, and money can stay local. This has nothing to do with a problem with the Dutch bid. I’m sure it’ll be great. That 2 million saved will be lost to the local economy at least 60 times over. That goes to the other poster who stated it’s all about the lowest tax dollars, even if we go broke doing it. This is so much deeper than TransLink’s bottom line. It’s a systemic problem. Globalization isn’t always a good thing. This is a point in case. I think we should be more careful with taking care of our own economy whenever possible. The rules need to be fixed to allow this to happen.

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, December 21, 2012 @ 4:20 pm

    Hi Bryn and Eugene: Our bidding opportunities are public knowledge and are always available to reference here – Although, we can’t divulge the information here, anyone can certainly FOI this info as noted on the page.

    I can tell you that Victoria Shipyards (Seaspan) who built our other SeaBuses were asked to place a bid. Unfortunately, they declined.

    Please also understand that finding the right builder for our transit is important to get right and can often include international companies. Both the latest versions of the SkyTrain and Canada Line were manufactured outside of Canada.

    As mentioned, TransLink does not have firm long term funding and is under some significant challenges providing our current level of service for a system that is being used by more people than ever before. We’ve been audited by the Province and our commissioner recently and been asked to examine every expense we make in order to provide the best value to tax payers and provide the best service possible to the people of Metro Vancouver.

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