Canadian transportation company BC Ferries provides an essential link from the mainland to the nation's many islands, carrying passengers and vehicles all over the province of British Columbia in 36 vessels with a total capacity of more than 27,000. So how does one of the largest ferry companies in the world approach sustainability?

In this video, Mike Corrigan, president and CEO of BC Ferries, explains the company's three-point plan of action, including fuel efficiency, sewage treatment and disposal, and use of greener products.

BC Ferries has replaced its gas-powered vehicles at their terminals with electric ones, and chooses hull coatings and propeller designs for their vessels that reduce fuel consumption. These small changes have led to a reduction of 6 million liters of fuel per year, even as the company added bigger ships and more capacity to its system. Additionally, the vessels now use 'shore power' while docked, meaning they plug into a renewable hydro-power system at night instead of running on diesel fuel.

A new $62.5-million program takes the effluent that would normally be discharged into the sea and disposes it at facilities where certified professionals ensure that it's properly processed, reducing contaminants in the marine environment.

BC Ferries has also taken a look at its supply chain to improve environmental performance. The company identified eco-friendly products from Zep that has helped them reach their sustainability goals, choosing less-harmful products that are healthier for staff and the environment.

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S1: BC Ferries started out in 1960, with two vessels going back and forth, between Victoria and Vancouver and today has grown into a company that has 35 ships and 47 terminals and 4,500 employees. Because we are probably the biggest shipping company on the West Coast, and in British Columbia, I think we're held to a higher standard. So environmental stewardship is very important to BC Ferries. It's really in our fabric and everything that we do.

Right now, we have three key environmental focuses, it's the fuel efficiency of the vessels, our sewage treatment plans and sewage discharge and the third one is just working with our suppliers. We have a big supply chain and it's important that we work with suppliers that are environmentally friendly.

S2: At our terminals we've replaced gasoline-powered vehicles with electric vehicles. For vessels, we've also looked at hull coatings and propeller designs to improve fuel consumption.

S1: Being able to reduce the fuel consumption by 6 million liters per year, while at the same time building bigger ships and adding more capacity into the system, and if you you think about the environmental footprint around that, I think that's huge.

S2: Another initiative BC Ferries has implemented is shore power. Shore power is when the vessels come in at night and no longer run their engines. Instead they hook in with a cable into shore power and they can operate all the amenities on board, through hydro-electricity, rather than burning and consuming diesel fuel.

S2: BC Ferries has implemented a $62.5 million pump to shore program. What that does is it takes the effluent that we would normal discharge into the sea, and now we're disposing to land-based facilities. What that does is it puts it in the hands of on-shore professionals that are trained and certified for sewage treatment. This will significantly reduce the amount of contaminants going into the marine environment.

S2: Approximately five years ago BC Ferries contacted ZEP, to assist us with improving our environmental performance, through product procurement. Through ZEP we started identifying more environmentally-friendly products, to be used at their terminals and on board our vessels.
This helped us move our sustainability goals forward. Less harmful products mean less risk to our staff and to the environment.

S1: At the end of the day, we all live in British Columbia, and use the coastal waters every day. So it's important that we take care of the environment that we live in and work in.

BC Ferries: Navigating a cleaner future
Canadian ferry operator approaches sustainability from three angles: fuel efficiency, sewage treatment and more environmentally friendly products.