British Columbia Ferry Services (BC Ferries) has announced an $18m mid-life upgrade (MLU) for Queen of Cumberland, in a bid to prepare the vessel for secure and consistent service lasting for another 20 years.

The refit work will be carried out at Esquimalt Drydocking Company for about five months from 21 November 2015 to 17 April 2016.

The refurbishment plans include the installation of a new boat deck entrance and exit, a new evacuation system, as well as a pet area along with an elevator system overhaul and replacement of the rescue boat.

"A significant upgrade such as the one the Queen of Cumberland is undergoing allows BC Ferries to operate a more efficient vessel for decades into the future."

Additionally, the renovation project will cover the upgrade of stairwells and disabled washroom along with security systems including the ship intercom, public address system and the CCTV.

BC Ferries Engineering vice-president Mark Wilson said: "A significant upgrade such as the one the Queen of Cumberland is undergoing allows BC Ferries to operate a more efficient vessel for decades into the future.

"We are confident that our customers will see positive results and we hope they are pleased with this commitment to reliable service."

Meanwhile, both the company’s Skeena Queen and the Bowen Queen will provide services on the Swartz Bay-Southern Gulf Islands route that is usually serviced by the Queen of Cumberland.

BC Ferries will add sailings to the Swartz Bay- Fulford Harbour route usually serviced by the Skeena Queen along with the Vesuvius Bay-Crofton routes to sustain the capacity levels to and from Salt Spring Island.

This year, BC Ferries shortlisted three shipyards for the MLU and LNG conversion of its Spirit-class vessels.

The selected shipyards are Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards, Remontowa in Poland, and Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri.

However, the programme was postponed for one year to ensure sufficient equipment procurement lead times, detailed engineering and necessary regulatory approvals, and to perform additional financial due diligence.