VICTORIA -- BC Ferries’ second hybrid-electric vessel, the Island Aurora, officially entered service Thursday.

The ship’s maiden voyage started at 9:35 a.m. along the Port McNeill-Alert Bay-Sointula route, which connects Vancouver Island to Cormorant Island and Malcolm Island.

The Island Aurora is the second of four new Island Class hybrid ships that have been added to the BC Ferries fleet, with the first vessel entering service last week between Texada Island and Powell River.

The four new ships currently operate on hybrid engines that can transition to full electric operation once shore power infrastructure is built.

Each of the new ferries can carry up to 392 passengers and 47 vehicles. The hybrid vessels also produce less underwater noise and lower emissions, according to BC Ferries.

The Island Aurora is replacing BC Ferries’ 51-year-old Quadra Queen II vessel. The Quadra Queen II will now be used as a relief vessel for the company’s fleet.

BC Ferries estimates that each Island Class vessel will have an operating lifespan of at least 40 years.

The next two hybrid vessels are expected to enter service by 2022.