Since leaving BC Ferries in early 2017, former CEO Mike Corrigan has taken on a role that continues to see him in a leadership position in the ferry sector – this time though, it’s as the CEO of Interferry, representatives of the ferry industry worldwide. “It’s been a good transition,” he said as BC Shipping News caught up with him to discuss the upcoming Interferry Conference (October 6 – 10, 2018 in Cancun, Mexico). “I’ve gone from managing 4,500 staff to an organization with much less in terms of manpower but with a much bigger influence in the world maritime industry.” Indeed, with that influence now reaching all the way to the International Maritime Organization, Corrigan has set out a range of priorities that promises to benefit ferry owners and operators around the world.


Interferry was originally formed in the U.S. in 1976 as the International Marine Transit Association. It changed its name in 2001 to Interferry but remained dedicated to representing all types of ferry operations (including RoPax, RoRo, Cruise Ferries, Fast Ferries, Passenger-only ferries, etc.) in all regions of the world.

With a primary goal of facilitating networking and communications within the ferry industry and representing the industry on regulatory and policy matters, Interferry has been driven by the following principles:

• Safety of passengers, crew, cargo and ships; adherence to safety regulations;

• Free, fair and open competition;

• Fair and equitable shipping regulations, consistently applied; and

• Protection of the natural environment; adherence to environmental regulations.

The organization now represents over 230 members from 37 countries, including not just ferry operators but also suppliers such as shipbuilders and designers, equipment manufacturers and suppliers, naval architects and marine engineers, ship brokers and consultants, classification societies, publishers as well as specialists in information technology, finance, insurance, crewing, training, etc.


For the past 42 years, one of the main vehicles for fulfilling its mandate has been the annual Interferry Conference. Hosted in cities around the world — most recently in Canada, Denmark, the Philippines and Croatia — Interferry chose Mexico for the location of its 43rd conference to recognize one of Corrigan’s goals as the new CEO. “One of my priorities is to expand the reach, influence and breadth of the organization across the world,” he said. “Interferry has been successful in the past but my job is to take it to the next level and become more involved in Central and South America as well as the Asia-Pacific region.”

For Corrigan, strengthening the organization’s presence in developing countries speaks to the larger goal of promoting safety, security and environmental sustainability for ferry systems worldwide. “We want to encourage more involvement from those parts of the world that don’t have the financial resources for effective training programs or vessel maintenance regimes that add to safer operations,” he said. “We’re spending a lot of time and energy trying to develop a safety regime for these countries. Our Safety Committee, chaired by Captain Jamie Marshall, Vice President, Business Development and Innovation at BC Ferries, and other representatives, including Roberta Weisbrod, Executive Director of the Worldwide Ferry Safety Association, are working with countries that are leading by example, like the Philippines, to bring the standards up for everyone.”

Recognizing that Interferry itself has limited resources and cannot directly fund initiatives, Corrigan noted that they can help find the funding by acting as a conduit to other organizations, such as the IMO or classification societies. “Right now, the Safety Committee is all about engaging people around the globe and making linkages with key companies in developing regions to leverage their experiences in creating world-class safety standards and training. For example, Archipelago Philippine Ferries is a leader in their region now. China also has companies that are moving in the right direction.”

Another, long-standing priority for Interferry has been its representation of the ferry sector to regulators, especially the IMO and the European Commission. As one of the few associations with IMO Consultative Status, Interferry’s Regulatory Affairs Director in Brussels, Johan Roos, works with industry experts and regulators to ensure proposed regulations do not unintentionally affect the ferry industry in an adverse way.

“As big as we think we are in the ferry world, we’re only about three to five per cent of the total shipping industry worldwide,” Corrigan said. “When a regulator, such as the IMO — or even a national government agency like Transport Canada — is developing rules and regulations, we make sure they keep the ferry sector in mind.” He added that approaching national governments is usually done in conjunction with local ferry operators.

Corrigan pointed to a number of regulations where Interferry has been able to alter final directives — for example, they were instrumental in getting the IMO to implement a 20 per cent correction in the Energy Efficiency Design Index calculation for Ro-Ro and Ro-Pax vessels as an incentive to revive newbuild projects that have been inhibited by the current criteria. Interferry also approached the Government of France to express great concern over their plans for onboard security screening. “They were proposing that passengers need to be screened between the car deck and the passenger decks. Can you imagine doing that on BC Ferries?”

Tackling the Issues

“In writing a speech recently about the issues facing the ferry industry, it was very clear that safety, security and the environment are the top three subjects on everyone’s list,” Corrigan said when asked about this year’s theme for the Interferry Conference.

On the safety front, Corrigan expects to spend a lot of time discussing, amongst other things, fire safety. The topic ties into Interferry’s recent development of fire safety best practices, given to the IMO and the European Union to proactively influence upcoming regulations. “Traditionally, we have been more reactive, i.e., trying to change or affect regulations already in place,” he noted. “Instead, we’ve got ahead of the regulations and we believe that when the IMO starts to implement rules around this topic, they’ll take what we’ve given them and use a major portion for them.”

In looking at security, Corrigan was pleased to advise that keynote speakers will include Commander (sg) Ben Lofstad, Director of the NATO Shipping Centre in NATO’s Maritime Command (MARCOM) in the Northwood Headquarters outside of London. “He’ll be touching on topics such as NATO/MARCOM’s security priorities and concerns as well as the NATO Shipping Centre’s mission and functionality,” he said, further adding that Interferry’s Security Committee was set up specifically to ensure the industry was prepared and was sharing common practices.

For the third prong of the theme, the environment, Corrigan had the difficult task of choosing from a plethora of topics and speakers. “The big driver in the environment is the decarbonisation of the world and the IMO’s recently established mandate to reduce CO2 emissions from shipping by 50 per cent by 2050. That’s a huge target for a lot of countries and is sure to be a topic of discussion amongst ferry operators as they move toward alternative fuels and technologies.”

The issue of underwater noise is also one that features large for ferry operators. “Robin Silvester, CEO, Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, is a keynote speaker and will be addressing the Port of Vancouver’s work on initiatives that monitor and address the impact of vessel noise on mammals and marine life.”

Additional topics that fall under the environment section of the agenda include ballast water management (a very big issue in Europe) and shipbreaking/ship recycling which is currently the subject of a huge debate and changing regulations. “We’re going to have a number of speakers from different parts of the industry on both sides of the argument,” Corrigan said. “We’ll be looking at both legal and ethical/moral contentions in the hopes of providing information that will help ferry operators make an informed decision when it comes time to get rid of a vessel. I’m expecting a really robust discussion in these sessions.”

Cancun, Mexico

Corrigan expects this year’s conference to attract more than last year’s record attendance of almost 500 participants, including delegates and their partners. “Interferry is a family organization — we have third generations now involved and the conference provides a great opportunity to connect (and re-connect) with colleagues and peers from around the world.”

Located at one of the top-rated hotels in Cancun, the JW Marriott Cancun Resort and Spa is hosting the conference which runs from October 6 to 10, 2018 (discounts on hotel rooms can be secured to span October 2 to 14).

For more information about registration, speakers, sessions and networking events, visit and follow @InterferryOrg.

This article appears in the July/August issue of Interferry Conference Media Partner BC Shipping News, available online here: