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Title: SeaBus  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: SkyTrain (Vancouver), Waterfront Station (Vancouver), TransLink (British Columbia), Coast Mountain Bus Company, West Coast Express
Collection: Seabus, Transport in Greater Vancouver
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Locale Metro Vancouver, British Columbia
Waterway Burrard Inlet
Transit type Passenger ferry
Owner TransLink
Operator Coast Mountain Bus Company
Began operation June 17, 1977 (1977-06-17)
System length 1.75-nautical-mile (3.24 km)
No. of lines 1
No. of vessels 4
No. of terminals 2
Daily ridership 16,600 (2013)

The SeaBus is a passenger-only ferry service in Metro Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It crosses Burrard Inlet to connect the cities of Vancouver and North Vancouver. Owned by TransLink and operated by the Coast Mountain Bus Company, the SeaBus forms an important part of the region's integrated public transportation system.


  • Service 1
  • Terminals 2
  • Ferries 3
    • Fuel efficiency 3.1
    • Livery 3.2
  • History 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Waiting hall at the Lonsdale Quay SeaBus terminal.
Waterfront Station SeaBus terminal.

The SeaBus fleet currently consists of four vessels. The ferries operate between approximately 6:00 am and 1:00 am from Monday to Saturday, and between 8:00 am and 11:30 pm on Sundays and holidays. During the daytime from Monday to Saturday two of the three ferries are in service, with the two ferries departing simultaneously from opposite termini and passing each other halfway. The 1.75-nautical-mile (3.24 km) crossing takes 10–12 minutes in each direction with a cruising speed of 11.5 knots (21.3 km/h), with a 3-5 minute turnaround and, therefore, operates on a 15-minute turn-around schedule.[1] At these times, over 50 crossings are made a day. During the evenings and on Sundays, service is reduced to a 30-minute schedule with only one ferry operating.

The SeaBus is capable of operating on a 12-minute turnaround (down to 10 minutes with simultaneous loading and unloading). However, at the higher speeds, the wake created disturbs other users of the Burrard Inlet.[1] During overloads they do sometimes operate at the higher speeds.

The ferries operate with four crew members on board[1] (captain and first mate on the bridge and two attendants on the passenger level) and engineers who stay ashore most of the time, but do regular checks of the engines and are available to come aboard at any time. Seabus crew members are trained and certified to deal with marine emergencies, and will give directions to passengers in the unlikely event of an emergency.

The original emergency procedure involved using the other SeaBus to evacuate passengers from the distressed SeaBus. Although the viability of this had been demonstrated, Transport Canada became concerned about this approach during times that the other SeaBus may not be available and has recently mandated the addition of life rafts.

The turnstiles on the entrance into the SeaBus waiting area are used only for counting the number of passengers boarding. When the maximum number is reached, the turnstiles lock and no more passengers are allowed on that SeaBus.[1][2]

Seabus is a "Fare Paid Zone" similar to SkyTrain and buses, meaning passengers are required to possess a valid fare (transfer/transit pass) in the Fare Paid Zone. Fare inspections are done by Transit Security Officers and on occasion by members of the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Police Service. Seabus attendants may check fares, but do not conduct enforcement. Seabus attendants can call Transit Security to deal with non-compliant passengers. Failure to pay the correct fare or retain a valid fare may result in being removed from the terminal and/or fined $173. Traditionally, like all public transit in Vancouver, the SeaBus offers free rides on New Year's Eve to discourage drinking and driving.


Entrance to the Charles A. Spratt SeaBus Terminal at Lonsdale Quay.

The SeaBus stops on the Vancouver side at Waterfront Station, near the Vancouver Convention Centre and the cruise ship terminal at Canada Place. A skywalk connects the SeaBus terminal to the main station building, where passengers can transfer to the West Coast Express and all three lines of the SkyTrain system (Expo Line, Millennium Line and Canada Line).

In North Vancouver, the SeaBus stops at the purpose-built Lonsdale Quay, which features an adjacent bus loop; together they form a major transit hub for Vancouver's North Shore municipalities. In addition to serving commuters, Lonsdale Quay has become an important tourist destination, with a hotel and public market. In 1989, the North Vancouver terminal was designated the 'Charles A. Spratt SeaBus Terminal', in honour of Charles Spratt, Project Manager of the SeaBus project from conception to launch, and Marine Manager of the system until his retirement in 1988.[3]

Each terminal consists of two docks surrounded by an "E"-shaped structure: passengers board from the central waiting hall, which is separated into two waiting areas (each serving one dock) by partitions and turnstiles, and disembark onto a side platform (a Spanish solution).


The current SeaBus fleet consists of the following vessels:

Vessel Year of construction (location) Capacity Status Exterior Interior
MV Burrard Otter 1976 (Vancouver) 385 In use
MV Burrard Beaver 1976 (Victoria) 385 In use (similar to MV Burrard Otter)
MV Burrard Pacific Breeze 2009 (Vancouver/Victoria) 385[4] In use
MV Burrard Otter II 2014 (Singapore) 385[5] In Use (similar to MV Burrard Pacific Breeze)

The ferries are catamarans constructed out of aluminium,[1] which was quite rare when the initial two craft were constructed in the 1970s. The ferries are double-ended so that they can travel in either direction without turning around. There are four diesel engines in each vessel, one for each propeller.[1] The propulsion system uses a marine version of the same diesel engine used to power many of the diesel buses on the transit system. The ferries can operate with only three engines if required.[1] The ferries are equipped with radar, allowing them to operate in dense fog.

The third vessel, the Burrard Pacific Breeze,[6] began service in December 2009, and TransLink operated all three ferries during the 2010 Winter Olympics. TransLink originally planned to provide regular three-vessel service by 2011 by overhauling and refitting both the Burrard Otter and the Burrard Beaver following the games to extend their service life for an additional twenty years.[7] However, citing the lack of funding, the agency announced in 2009 it planned to upgrade only one of the original vessels and retire the other one; another new ferry will be commissioned instead if funding becomes available in the future.[8]

TransLink resumed two-vessel service in March 2010, mostly using the Burrard Beaver and the Burrard Pacific Breeze, with the Burrard Otter being used as a substitute. At that point the agency announced its intention to keep all three vessels in the expectation that funding becomes available for three-vessel service in the future.[9]

In late 2012, TransLink announced it had selected Damen Group of the Netherlands to build the fourth SeaBus vessel; the project will cost about $25 million.[10][11] The new vessel is expected to enter service in fall 2014, at which point the Burrard Beaver will become a spare vessel and the Burrard Otter will be retired.[10][11]

As there used to be no spare ferries, all refits and upgrades had been done during a long weekend when the half hour service could be maintained with one boat. Engine replacements and minor refits can be done during the system downtime overnight. Despite running for over 35 years, the two original ships are rarely taken out of service for maintenance, boasting a service reliability of over 99.9%.[1][12]

Fuel efficiency

The Vancouver SeaBus uses 83 kilowatt-hours per vehicle-kilometre, at a speed of 13.5 kilometres per hour. When full (i.e. when seating 400 people), the energy used is 0.21 kilowatt-hours per passenger-kilometre.[13]


The colour scheme of SeaBus has changed at least three times since opening in 1977. From launch until 1985, both the Burrard Otter and the Burrard Beaver were painted a bright orange colour in order to make them highly visible to other ships and tugs using the harbour, since the SeaBus route crosses the path of other traffic. To accommodate Vancouver's Expo 86, the city's then-transit authority BC Transit changed the design scheme to white with one red and one blue stripe as well as a BC flag label, matching SeaBus with the then newly built SkyTrain system and newly ordered bus fleet. This remained until the 1999/2000 handover of BC Transit to Metro Vancouver's present transportation administration, TransLink. The paint scheme has since been white (or grey) with blue and golden yellow strips across the sides of the ferries.


Passengers boarding a North Vancouver Ferry at the Vancouver dock.
North Vancouver Ferry No. 2
North Vancouver Ferry No. 3

The first regular service between the logging camp on the west coast of Vancouver Island until it was destroyed by fire.

In 1938, the Lions Gate Bridge was completed and took away much business from the ferries. However, there was an increased demand with the onset of World War II because of the shipbuilding boom in North Vancouver. This growth in business spurred the creation of a new ferry, the North Vancouver Ferry No. 5, in 1941. The Crosline was also leased from Washington to meet demands. According to Capt. James Barr, 1943 was the busiest year that North Vancouver Ferries had, ferrying over 7 million passengers across the Burrard Inlet.

The North Vancouver No. 5 was built in Coal Harbour by Boeing Shipyards in 1941. She ran faithfully with her Union Diesel until 1958 when she was tied up at the foot of Lonsdale Ave along with North Vancouver Ferry No 4. Capt. Jesse Oliver Kinnie, a North Vancouver Ferry employee looked into the possibility of purchasing North Vancouver Ferry No. 4 and running it on the same route as she had run all her life. She had a higher height clearance on the car deck than Ferry No 5 and was faster. The numbers did not add up and the plan was abandoned. Number 4 ferry also ran on a Union Diesel.

The ferries were in major decline by the 1950s. In 1948 the No. 3 was taken off of regular service and was sold in 1953. The cost of operating the ferries was too high and in 1958 and the last sailing took place on August 30 by the No. 4 ferry. The No. 4 was later sold to be used in Prince Rupert. Later, No. 4 returned to Vancouver and was tied up on the Vancouver side of Burrard Inlet. She was in desperate need of a refit and had to be kept afloat with pumps to keep the water out of her hull. When the power failed and the pumps stopped she went to the bottom. The No. 5 was converted into the Seven Seas Restaurant at the foot of Lonsdale in North Vancouver. It remained there until 2002 when the City of North Vancouver and the federal courts had it demolished after a long-standing dispute who would be responsible if it sank and concern that the hull was in danger of imminent collapse. In dry dock it proved to be quite sound, but at that point the decision had already been made to scrap it and a piece of heritage was lost.

There were plans in the 1960s to build a tunnel under Burrard Inlet, which would have connected to the proposed freeways on the Vancouver side. After the freeway plans in Vancouver were cancelled, the tunnel proposal was also abandoned, and the money originally slated for that project was instead redirected to re-establishing a passenger ferry service between Vancouver and the North Shore.[14] The ferry proposal was included in a 1975 report by the Greater Vancouver Regional District,[15] and the current SeaBus ferries began operating the Waterfront Station-Lonsdale Quay route on June 17, 1977,[12] initially as part of the Transportation Division of BC Hydro. For the first few years of service, the automated fare machines (the first in Vancouver's transit system) at the two SeaBus terminals printed an impression of the rider's coins onto a cash-register-style receipt, which could become very long if fares were paid in small-denomination coins such as pennies.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Alan Haig-Brown (May 2008). "Vancouver commuter ferry celebrates 30 years of service". Professional Mariner. Retrieved 2012-05-17. 
  2. ^ Jonathan Seymour (October 2010). "Moving forward after a night to remember". Transportation Safety Board of Canada. Retrieved 2012-05-17. 
  3. ^ Ana Macedo (2012-04-27). "Nancy Spratt: Horsing around". Chilliwack Progress. Retrieved 2012-05-17. 
  4. ^ Passenger house of third SeaBus arrives at Victoria Shipyards
  5. ^ [2]
  6. ^ New SeaBus named Burrard Pacific Breeze
  7. ^ Name the SeaBus Contest
  8. ^ SeaBus fleet grows for Olympics, but won't last, CTV News, December 23, 2009. Accessed online January 16, 2010.
  9. ^ "Public transportation after the Games: where do we go from here?". TransLink. 2010-03-05. Retrieved 2012-05-17. 
  10. ^ a b "A new efficient SeaBus to be built to keep service reliable". TransLink. 2012-12-17. Retrieved 2013-01-02. 
  11. ^ a b Nagel, Jeff (2012-12-19). "TransLink picks offshore firm to build next SeaBus". North Shore Outlook. Retrieved 2013-01-02. 
  12. ^ a b "Chair honors "Visionaries" as SeaBus turns 30". TransLink. 2007-06-15. Retrieved 2012-05-17. 
  13. ^ David J.C. MacKay. Sustainable Energy – without the hot air. UIT Cambridge, 2008. ISBN 978-0-9544529-3-3. p. 120.
  14. ^ Berelowitz, Lance (2010). Dream City: Vancouver and the Global Imagination. Douglas & McIntyre. p. 82.  
  15. ^ Greater Vancouver Regional District (1975-03-26). The Livable Region 1976/1986 (Report). p. 24. 
  • History of Metropolitan Vancouver

External links

  • TransLink - Transit Schedules - SeaBus
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