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Floatel can navigate choppy waters with Squamish: WLNG

WLNG president Christine Kennedy said they were committed to finding a path forward with the District.

Woodfibre LNG president Christine Kennedy said the company remained committed to finding a path forward with the District of Squamish for the floatel, but was mum on any future contingencies if the two can’t come to an agreement.

On May 9, Woodfibre LNG (WLNG) and Bridgeman Services Group gave a tour of the floatel to members of invited media.

The vessel, which is called MV Isabelle X is intended to serve as the floating worker accommodation for the construction of the liquefied natural gas export facility on Howe Sound, near Squamish. The floatel was intended to act as an alternative to housing the bulk of workers in the community.

It is currently docked in Vancouver – and may stay there for the time being while WLNG navigates a setback in its plan, in that the District of Squamish recently failed to either reject outright or approve a temporary use permit (TUP) that would have allowed the company to house up to 650 workers onboard. Those on council who opposed the TUP cited community safety concerns and a lack of information in the application.

Read more about the public hearing and council’s TUP decision in previous coverage from The Squamish Chief.

Despite that setback, WLNG invited members of regional media to take a tour of the vessel, with Brian Grange, president of Bridgemans Services Group (which fits out ships), showing off the various amenities onboard the ship, which has taken about a year to prepare for use as a floatel.

With 24-hour security, electric heating and cooling system, laundry service for workers, waste management strategy and other environmental commitments such as no single-use plastics, the vessel is also decked out with amenities for workers including a full-service gym and multiple rooms dedicated to games and dining plus lounges.

“We put a lot of time into understanding that people's lives are not all about work. It's also about recreation, and community is just as important,” he said. “Our floatels are their own ecosystems.”

Grange said Bridgemans has refitted numerous vessels into floatels all over the world and the MV Isabelle X is one of three the company currently maintains.

Following the tour, Grange, Squamish Nation representatives, and WLNG president Christine Kennedy held a short Q&A. Throughout the questions, Kennedy maintained that the company was continuing to pursue a way forward with the District despite a council vote on April 30 that left it high and dry.

“We look forward to continuing our work with the District of Squamish on advancing this best possible solution,” she said, adding that the company was willing to meet the security deposit suggested by a Squamish councillor of $10 million, as opposed to the currently proposed $2 million.

Currently, without the floatel in use, Kennedy said workers continue to be ferried to the worksite from a land-based camp in Port Mellon, which is closer to the Sunshine Coast and outside District of Squamish jurisdiction.

Kennedy was asked a few times what contingencies WLNG is thinking of applying if the floatel doesn’t work out, but was not drawn on alternatives, saying that the company anticipates they will find a solution with the District.

“It is the approved plan by the provincial government and the Squamish Nation government that have the authority to make those decisions,” she said.

“The District of Squamish makes a zoning decision, but the approval for using the floatel to accommodate workforce has already been made by other levels of government.”

While the May 9 tour was attended by media, Kennedy said that WLNG maintained an open invitation to members of the District of Squamish staff and council to tour the flotel.