10/22/2013 10:18 EDT | Updated 12/22/2013 05:12 EST

Nanaimo passenger ferry group seeks city tax breaks

A group that wants to run a foot passenger ferry service between downtown Vancouver and Nanaimo says it needs millions of dollars worth of tax breaks from Nanaimo to make it work.         

Victoria businessman David Marshall told city council last night that although Island Ferry Services is still looking for investors, it still hopes to have a foot passenger catamaran ferry service running by next spring.

The company plans to run a minimum of three daily round trip sailings to downtown Vancouver.

But to make it work financially, the company wants a five-year tax holiday from Nanaimo and it wants the city to pay for water and sewer services to the site.

In return, Nanaimo would receive a 25 cent tax per passenger and half the revenue from parking.

Former ferry operator optimistic

Nanaimo has seen three failed foot passenger ferry services in the past, but one city councillor who ran one of those ferry services in the late 90s that survived for only one year, thinks this ferry plan can work.

Counc. Bill McKay says this plan is more viable because the market has expanded and it would get help from the city before proceeding.

"What we're hoping this time is that we can give them the environment to prosper."

He says city staff will crunch the numbers while the politicians gauge public opinion.

"Now that we've got some nuts and bolts to it, we can start drilling down and finding out what these numbers actually look like and what they mean to the community."

Currently travellers between Nanaimo and Vancouver must use the BC Ferries service from Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, or take a float plane between the downtown harbours.