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New float plane terminal sues to have ‘temporary’ docks turfed

March 26, 2012, Richmond, B.C. - This is a tale of two terminals. On one side, gleaming with all the expected bells and whistles, the new $21-million seaplane terminal at the Vancouver Convention Centre sits empty. Just to the west, a hodgepodge of Atco trailers and wooden docks marks the “temporary” seaplane terminal, which is busy and thriving.


March 26, 2012
By The Vancouver Province

This Coal Harbour conundrum is now going to court, as the builders of the new terminal at the shiny Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre — who say they’re losing $250,000 a month — attempts to have their shabby competitor shut down.

“There were never supposed to be two terminals,” VHFC president Paul McElligott told The Province as he showed off the high-end terminal touches that were supposed to be paid off via a $9.50 fee from each passenger.

“The old one is dilapidated, the height ranges from eight to 24 inches – it’s what you’d expect at a fishing camp.”

McElligott said VHFC will sue the B.C. Pavilion Corp. “over the Crown corporation’s failure … to issue notice for closure of the temporary float plane terminal operating … which was built to PAVCO’s specifications.”

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The idea was all the seaplanes would cluster at the newly-built terminal, and the old terminal would be shut.

Seair and Tofino Air use the new terminal, but industry giant Harbour Air and others have balked at paying a premium to use the newly-finished terminal, preferring their more basic — and much cheaper — terminal.

Randy Wright, Harbour Air’s executive vice-president, says the old, low-riding wooden structure tucked to the west of the Convention Centre is safer than the exposed, high-riding concrete dock battered by marine wakes.

“They have a $20-million facility; it’s pretty fancy, but we question the safety of the docks,” said Wright. “We’ve not willing to risk millions of dollars worth of aircraft, and staff, and hundreds of thousands of passengers a year.”

Saltspring Air director Philip Reece said an independent safety review is needed now.

“The only thing that can be done really is to get a third-party safety study, and abide by the findings,” said Reece.

“Money is always a factor – I would say it doesn’t need to be $9.50. But even if it was $5.50, or $3.50, we wouldn’t go until we know it’s safe.”

Vancouver’s original terminal had to be moved to accommodate the building of the new convention centre.

The location of an interim facility was besieged by noise complaints from West End residents, who were quieted in part by assurances the facility was only temporary.