Black Ball’s MV Coho (above) at her 1950 Inner Harbour berth with two princess liners moored at the Canadian Pacific’s BC Coastal Service piers. Photo: DEDDEDA Photography
In the mid-1800s the Hudson’s Bay Company established the first scheduled freight/passenger service between Victoria and the Lower Mainland. From 1901 into the 1950’s the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Pacific coast transportation unit, the British Columbia Coastal Service and Seattle’s Black Ball Line replaced the HBC service. the service to provide a five-hour journey between downtown Vancouver and downtown Victoria.
In the late 1950s, a strike by Black Ball Line employees broke Vancouver Island’s vital connection to the Lower Mainland. This left islanders, businesses and government stranded. The event caused W.A.C. Bennett’s Social Credit government of to announce, on on July 18, 1958, the establishment of a government-owned BC Ferries, a Crown corporation under then Minister of Highways Phil Gaglardi.
B.C. Ferries created its new service from scratch. Victoria Machinery Depot (VMD) was the key to the early success, building 11 of the first 14 B.C. Ferries vessels, including the first, MV Sidney in 1960. At one point, VMD employed 1,000 people constructing two ferries at the same time at its Ogden Point shipyard.