BC Ferries has issued a request for expressions of interest to obtain five new major vessels.

The bidding process is open to local, national, and international shipyards, including groups of companies.

This is the first step in bringing these ships online, with service expected to begin in 2023.

These five ships will replace the Queen of Alberni, Queen of Cowichan, and Queen of Coquitlam that provide service between the Lower Mainland and Nanaimo terminals.

The Queen of New Westminister, which provides service between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay, is also being replaced.