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A look inside the now-sidelined ‘floatel’ meant to house LNG workers near Squamish

Click to play video: 'LNG company shows off ‘floatel’ after Squamish rejection'
LNG company shows off ‘floatel’ after Squamish rejection
WATCH: The company behind the liquid natural gas project near Squamish is showing off its controversial 'floatel' to house its workers, after Squamish council rejected the facility. Aaron McArthur reports – May 9, 2024

It’s 555 feet long, retrofitted to house hundreds of people, and, for now, sitting idle in Howe Sound.

The MV Isabelle X, a Croatian-built former cruise ship, was supposed to be the workforce accommodations for some 650 workers building the Woodfibre Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) plant near Squamish.

But a permitting dispute with the District of Squamish has put a freeze on those plans.

On Thursday, Woodfibre opened the vessel to a media tour, showing off its dining room, games room, lounge and well-appointed cabins.

Vancouver-based Bridgeman’s Services Group did the $100-million makeover to bring the vessel up to standards for its anticipated residents.

In its new role as a “floatel,” the vessel is completely self-sufficient, including sewage collection and shore power instead of diesel to run state-of-the-art industrial heat pumps and ship systems.

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Click to play video: 'Squamish LNG plant hits roadblock'
Squamish LNG plant hits roadblock

“The floatel is a direct response to requests from the District of Squamish and the Squamish Nation and members of the community over a consultation process that went on for several years about housing our project workforce outside of the community,” Woodfibre LNG president Christine Kennedy said.

The floatel has earned the approval of both the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office and the Squamish Nation.

But last week, the District of Squamish council voted to reject a temporary one-year permit for the vessel. That decision followed concerns from speakers about the safety of women and girls, traffic issues and waste management issues.

“From the beginning, this community has been committed to minimizing impacts on the community of Squamish,” Kennedy said.

“We heard loud and clear over years of engagement that the top concerns from the community were impacts on traffic, housing, impacts on community services.”

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Woodfibre said workers will be transported to and from the floatel by boat from Vancouver, and won’t have access to Squamish during their work shifts.

Click to play video: 'Floating hotel proposed for Woodfibre LNG work site'
Floating hotel proposed for Woodfibre LNG work site

The Squamish Nation also worked with the company to draft a comprehensive gender-based violence training program.

“We have trained over 1,000 people on site. And this was a quote from some of the workers themselves: that they’d never had this kind of training before,” said Kalkalilh of the Squamish Gender Safety Advisory Committee.

The company is now in talks with the district, including an offer of a $10 million security, but the path forward remains unclear.

In the meantime, crews working on the LNG plant are staying at a work camp near Port Mellon on the Sunshine Coast.

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“I think there is a resolution here somewhere,” Squamish Mayor Armand Hurford said.

“What that looks like exactly I don’t have a clear vision as to what that is and I am not sure quite what is possible from the proponent’s side.”

Woodfibre LNG is licensed to export about 2.1 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas a year for the next 40 years from a former pulp mill about seven kilometres south of Squamish.

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