VICTORIA, B.C- BC Ferries is addressing its ageing fleet of vessels by issuing requests for shipbuilders to prepare expressions of interest for the building of five new ships.

There are 17 different classes in the fleet at BC Ferries and of the five new ships, four 81-metre Island Class (450 passengers and 47 vehicles) and one Salish Class vessel (107 metres, 600 passengers, and 138 vehicles) will be built to replace the older models.

The five new vessels will replace the Bowen Queen, Mayne Queen and Powell River Queen and allow for redeployment of some vessels throughout the fleet.

The huge corporation operates vessels for 45 years before retiring them from service and VP of Strategy and Community Engagement Mark Wilson says three ships are being retired in short order.

The transportation giant mortgages these hugely expensive boats over the 45-year life of the vessel.

After expressions of interest have been submitted, potential shipbuilders need to submit requests for pre-qualifications to narrow the potential builders, and then BC Ferries will create a shortlist and the shipbuilding industry then issues requests for proposal.

Replacing one older vessel with two new smaller vessels on the Nanaimo Harbour to Gabriola Island route and the Campbell River to Quadra Island route will improve capacity and frequency.

The passenger count on these runs will more than double from 400 to 900 passengers per hour, while the vehicle carrying capacity will increase by approximately 60 to 94 vehicles per hour.

All five are expected to be in service by 2021.