Klemtu Ferry Terminal a Winning Collaboration

First Nations art meets function in a ferry terminal that was a project managed by the ministry and chosen as a double winner at the Northern Builders Awards around 2012.

Eagles soar over the new building at Klemtu

The Klemtu Ferry Terminal reflects the culture of the Kitasoo/Xai’xais people, who live in this remote village of about 400 residents on Swindle Island. The cedar-clad building was designed by Acton Ostry Architects Inc., developed by SNC-Lavalin and built by Bear Creek Contracting. It resembles a traditional long house and is rich with First Nations symbols, including crests and a salmon weather vane. A large welcoming figure, carved by famed Aboriginal artist Tom Hunt oversees safe passage for passengers and ships, and a canoe mounted over the terminal’s gateway tells the story of Klemtu’s creation. Nearby, a round wood symbol with a white bear represents Spirit Bear Lodge, and the village’s location in the Great Bear Rainforest.

These striking features, developed in consultation with the Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation, earned the terminal a Northern Builders Awards prize in the Community Institutional category, plus the Judge’s Choice Award for best overall winner. The Canadian Home Builders’ Association – Northern BC, the Commercial Council of the B.C. Northern Real Estate Board and the B.C. Construction Association North held the event in April to recognize outstanding buildings completed over the last two years.

The new Klemtu ferry terminal was constructed two kilometres north of the old ferry terminal, as the berth provided the depth and orientation needed for BC Ferries’ Northern Expedition. In addition to the award-winning terminal building, a vehicle and passenger ramp, and vehicle compound were constructed, and road improvements were made to the site.

Salmon and herring artwork on lock block walls

As Klemtu is accessible only by sea and air, all construction materials and equipment had to be barged into the community. Asphalt for the new road was heated and mixed at a plant in Kitimat. A special additive was put in to help with the asphalt’s placement and compacting, because the material would cool, by the time it arrived in Klemtu up to a day later.

The new terminal is a major benefit to Klemtu community members who now travel more easily for health care, education and employment. It’s simpler to move goods and services too – which opens up economic opportunities for Klemtu residents. Tourists who pull into the terminal on their scenic sailing from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert, will no doubt, be awed by the beauty of the facility and the setting.

Announced in Dec 2009, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure was the lead agency in managing the delivery of the new terminal, which was officially opened on August 12, 2011.  This unique facility is a winner for everyone, and well worth celebrating.

Check out more photos of the facility and its opening day on Flickr.

More blogs highlighting the Indigenous imprint on transportation infrastructure:





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Page 1 of 14 comments on “Klemtu Ferry Terminal a Winning Collaboration”

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  1. Are the terminal buildings owned by the Financing Authority as well, or just the land? There seem to be contradicting messages surrounding construction and ownership of the buildings. Can you please clarify. For example, who is financing and who owns the new cable ferry terminals at Denman, BCF or MoTI through the Authority?

    • Hello Bernhard,

      Thanks for connecting with us here. We understand that you have also sent your questions directly to the Deputy Minister and wanted to let you know that your answer will come directly from that office. Thank you!

  2. BC Ferries and SNC Lavalin have partnered in an entity called “Terminal Asset Management”. Usually new construction or modifications of terminals ( like on the Route 21 cable ferry ) are managed by SNC Lavalin and paid for by the fare payer with some federal and provincial contributions.

    The Klemtu Terminal was project managed by MoTI, “developed” by SNC Lavalin and entirely paid for by federal and provincial taxpayers.

    Can you explain why the Klemtu Terminal was handled differently and received preferential financing, while serving a very small population with a once a week round trip?

    Hardly seems fair from my Hornby Island perspective.

    • Hi again Bernhard. Many of the terminals used by BC Ferries, including the new Klemtu terminal, are owned by the Transportation Financing Authority, a provincial crown corporation associated with the ministry, and subject to long-term leases to the company.

      Klemtu, which has no road access, required a new terminal to improve reliability of service. In this case, the Province was able to access one-time funding under the federal Infrastructure Stimulus Fund. Accessing federal funding reduced the pressure on fares for all coastal ferry users.

      Taxpayers provide considerable support for both northern and southern ferry routes, contributing over $200 million each year.

      The project supported the goals of the New Relationship with First Nations by improving the economic development opportunities for the Kitasoo members living in Klemtu.

      Hope this helps.

  3. Having lived in Klemtu, where the ferry comes in every two weeks in the summer and monthly for the rest of the year and only a handful of cars goes on to or comes off of the ferry leaves me questioning this terrible wastes of funds.

    • There were challenges with vessels getting in and out of the old terminal, particularly in difficult weather. The terminal at the new location provides safer and more reliable service to residents and travellers alike. In addition, it’s easier to move goods on and off the ferry, which opens up economic opportunities. The ferry now stops at Klemtu twice a week in the summer and once a week the rest of the year providing residents with improved access to education, health care and employment.

  4. Hello;

    Now that the ferry terminal is located 2+ kilometers outside the community of Klemtu, have or will any services be put in place so visitors arriving by ferry and travelling on foot can visit and contribute to the tourism economy of Klemtu?

    Klemtu visitor info service advises that there is no service that can be pre arranged to bring visitors from or to the ferry terminal into the community. As a person who is planning a kayak trip from Klemtu, it feels like we would arrive by BC Ferry with gear and kayaks but there is no reasonable means to reach a safe launching site or enjoy the community of Klemtu before beginning the kayak trip.

    The previous ferry terminal in Klemtu provided much more convenient options to visit Klemtu when arriving by BC Ferry.



    • Hi Ken,
      The location of the new berth was chosen because it provides the depth and orientation needed for BC Ferries’ Northern Expedition – it’s the closest site to the community that is technically feasible for the vessel.
      The community and/or place of accommodation would be best suited to offer shuttle services. The Spirit Bear Lodge (www.spiritbear.com) is the primary (and perhaps only) tourist accommodation available in town. Have you looked into whether guests can arrange for pick-up at the ferry?
      Sorry for the inconvenience. We’ve passed your dilemma on to the project team.

    • Hi again Coleeen. We just wanted to confirm with you that the Klemtu terminal funding was provided jointly by the Province of British Columbia and the Government of Canada’s Infrastructure Stimulus Fund. The total project cost was $17.4 million.