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Former BC ferry leaves Port Alberni for Ucluelet harbour

Future of decommissioned car ferry MV Tenaka uncertain
The decommissioned BC Ferry MV Tenaka is anchored in Ucluelet’s harbour after it was towed from Port Alberni Harbour on June 23, 2021. It’s the first time a BC Ferry has anchored in the area, harbourmaster Kevin Cortes said. (ANDREW BAILEY/ Black Press)

If you were waiting to watch the decommissioned BC Ferry MV Tenaka leave Alberni Harbour, you missed it.

A tugboat from Timberrose Ventures moved the Tenaka out of its berth beside Lady Rose Marine Services very early in the morning on June 23, 2021, company owner Randy Rose said.

It signalled the end of an era of possibility for the former car ferry. Lady Rose Marine owner Mike Surrell bought the Tenaka in 2016 intending to put it into service as a second cargo vessel, complementing the MV Frances Barkley. As soon as officials in Bamfield, Ucluelet and Tofino discovered he had a ferry capable of car service, though, they asked Surrell to hold off from converting it to a cargo vessel. There was interest in creating a car-ferry service to those communities, giving them a second access, but infrastructure for the ferry would have to be built.

Surrell said in 2017 that he was speaking with government officials, and received a letter of support for potential vehicle service from the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District.

Nearly four years later, with government approval and cooperation seemingly no closer than it was in 2017, and with the economic pressures from the novel coronavirus pandemic, Surrell put the 46-metre ferry up for sale. In early March he announced the ferry was sold to a private buyer from Alaska that wanted to use it in the construction industry.

The ferry was supposed to leave the Alberni Harbour at the end of March as the family made arrangements to bring it first to Bellingham, Washington for retrofitting and then on to Alaska.

By June, the ferry was still sitting at its Lady Rose Marine berth and there were rumours it had been re-sold by the Alaskan owners.

Rose said arrangements were made within a couple of days to tow the vessel down the Alberni Inlet to Ucluelet. One of his five tugboats, the Timber Gale, was available and large enough for the job. “It was unusual to be asked to do it,” he said. “We just happened to have a window to be able to do it.”

Surrell could not be reached to confirm whether the vessel had been sold a second time.

The MV Tenaka was anchored in Ucluelet at the end of June. Harbourmaster Kevin Cortes said Ucluelet’s small craft harbour often sees different vessels that moor temporarily before transiting elsewhere because the harbour is so calm.

“I’ve never had a B.C. Ferry down here.”

Cortes said he didn’t know how long the MV Tenaka was going to be anchored on Ucluelet’s waterfront. “I’m in the process of determining that.”

The Tenaka is a 46-metre (150-foot) roll-on, roll-off passenger ship built in 1964 for the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Highways. The vessel’s original name was Comox Queen and ran between Comox and Powell River until the mid-1970s. The 30-car ferry was renamed Tenaka in 1977. It became part of BC Ferries’ fleet in 1985 and was decommissioned and sold to Lady Rose Marine Services in April 2016.

Susie Quinn

About the Author: Susie Quinn

A journalist since 1987, I proudly serve as the Alberni Valley News editor.
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