Wings Magazine

Seaplane operators unite to build harbour hub


Seaplane operators unite to build harbour hub
Vancouver's commercial seaplane operators are applying to Port Metro Vancouver to construct a new multi-modal passenger terminal in Vancouver Harbour to serve seaplanes, helicopters and any future passenger ferries.

January 18, 2011  By Carey Fredericks

Jan. 18, 2011, Vancouver – Vancouver's commercial seaplane operators
are applying to Port Metro Vancouver to construct a new multi-modal
passenger terminal in Vancouver Harbour to serve seaplanes, helicopters
and any future passenger ferries.

The application is being spearheaded by the Vancouver Commercial Seaplane Operators' Association (VCSOA) representing eight seaplane companies who together transport 350,000 passengers to and from Vancouver Harbour annually. The multi-modal Harbour Hub is a necessary alternative to the proposed construction of a $22-million seaplane and marina facility at the north end of the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre Expansion.

The Convention Centre proposal would add at least $24 to ticket prices for every passenger taking a return seaplane trip to and from Vancouver Harbour in order to create profits for the private-sector developer. That proposal also offers no viable passenger pick-up and drop-off and has no immediate connection to public transit.

"The Harbour Hub will be one of the most innovative and integrated seaplane terminals on the continent," said Greg McDougall, CEO of Harbour Air and President of the VCSOA. "We will operate cooperatively as a non-profit society."


"Our terminal will not only provide a better passenger experience than the $22-million terminal being proposed by a private developer, but we will build it for substantially less," said McDougall. "We can build Vancouver a new tourist attraction and at the same time insulate our customers and operators from unnecessary fees and rate hikes."

The Harbour Hub will be located on the eastern side of Canada Place, connecting the province's 4th busiest airport directly to Vancouver International Airport, the Canada Line, and all aspects of Vancouver's public transit system.

"Seaplane operators just can't absorb the unnecessary costs of the $22-million terminal now being proposed by a private developer at the Convention Centre site," said Mike Quinn, Vice-president of the VCOSA and owner of Whistler Air. "Our industry believes the Harbour Hub is a better solution for British Columbians and the seaplane industry."

Despite being slated for development for over five years, the developer of the proposed for-profit terminal at the Convention Centre has to date been unable to secure any seaplane industry tenants.

"Anything that adds unnecessary costs to floatplane travel hurts the residents of the Gulf Islands and the island economy," said Philip Reece, director of Salt Spring Air. "The Harbour Hub is the solution to keeping ticket prices affordable."

The Harbour Hub will provide a world-class experience and a covered walkway offering direct connections between modes of transportation including helicopters, buses, the Seabus, Skytrain, taxis and the nearby Canada Line. Owned and operated on a not-for-profit basis, the Harbour Hub will help keep passengers' fares affordable through efficiencies such as shared check-in, baggage handling, parking and shuttles, waiting areas and other amenities. All revenue will be reinvested in the enhancement and operation of the Harbour Hub itself.

The Harbour Hub will be designed to fit in with the historical use and architectural tradition of the Gastown waterfront, its neighbourhood and Portside Park. Amenities such as food and beverage, viewing platforms and future bicycle paths will enhance and draw more people down to the historical waterfront area.

The non-profit, Harbour Hub will benefit the industry and the public because it:

—  Eliminates the $24 cost per return ticket if seaplane passengers are
    forced to fly out of a for-profit terminal.
—  Substantially cuts the cost of a new terminal from $22 million, now
    being proposed by a private consortium. These savings, along with the
    efficiencies of a multi-modal facility, will be passed on to passengers
    and industry operators through a not-for-profit model.
— Can be put in place with no interruption of service, with the current
    temporary terminal relocated as soon as approval is reached.
—  Reduces noise from operations by shifting the primary take-off and
    landing zone to one that is 900-metres offshore. Residents of Gastown,
    Coal Harbour and visitors to the Vancouver Convention Centre will
    experience dramatically reduced noise issues from seaplanes landing and
    taking off in Vancouver Harbour.
—  Is the only downtown location linking to helicopters, any future
    passenger ferries and all of Vancouver's existing public transit systems
    such as the Canada Line, the West Coast Express, Skytrain, Seabus, buses
    and taxis. This will help meet Vancouver's low carbon footprint goals
    and encourage all forms of transit, in addition to cyclist and
    pedestrian access.


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