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Passenger levy derails floatplane terminal talks

Talks between floatplane companies and the owners of a privately funded seaplane terminal under construction in front of the Vancouver Convention Centre have stalled over fees that aviation companies would pay to use the $22-million facility.

Talks are "not going on right now - but we wish they were," Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre chairman Graham Clarke said on Wednesday.

The most recent talks took place a couple of weeks ago through an intermediary, and the parties are at a "stalemate," he said.

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The terminal operators have proposed a landing fee of $12 a passenger, a levy that Mr. Clarke said reflects the costs to build and run the facility and the high-rent district in which it is located.

"I think the operators wish the charge was less," Mr. Clarke said. "And to be honest, we as terminal operators wish the charge was less. We wish we didn't have to pay rent to the provincial government, or pay taxes or any of that stuff - but unfortunately, these are the costs of doing business."

VHFC, a partnership between the Clarke Group of companies and the Ledcor Group, is building a water-lot facility to replace a temporary seaplane terminal that has operated west of Canada Place since 2004.

That temporary facility replaced one that operated at the foot of Burrard Street until it was displaced by construction of the new convention centre.

Some area residents have complained about noise from the temporary facility and urged the city to relocate it.

VHFC's terminal is designed to accommodate nearly 20 seaplanes, more than the temporary facility can handle, and will feature amenities such as a passenger lounge and retail, food and office space.

The facility will occupy about 1,000 square metres of the Vancouver Convention Centre and operates under a long-term lease of the water site.

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The anchor tenant of the new facility is expected to be Harbour Air, which describes itself as the biggest all-seaplane company in the world and flies between Vancouver and Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.

Harbour Air representatives were not immediately available for comment on Wednesday.

Other seaplane companies could also use the facility, which is scheduled to be finished by May 1.

The $12 levy is based on estimates of the number of passengers travelling through the facility and the amount that the terminal owners need to cover their costs and generate a profit, Mr. Clarke said.

The expense would likely not show up as a separate charge on customers' tickets but would be rolled in to ticket costs, Mr. Clarke said.

Fares are likely to increase, especially in the early days of the new facility, but that could be offset by increased passenger volumes, he said.

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