Sailing cutbacks for Gabriola route will start October 17

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, June 9 2020

UPDATE: According to the Gabrola FAC, BC Ferries has confirmed the following changes will take effect on Route 19, connecting Gabriola Island and Nanaimo Harbour, starting October 17, 2020, through to May 16, 2021.

The 1:50pm and 2:25pm sailings will be cancelled on Saturdays and Sundays, but excluding the Easter Weekend. 
These sailings will also be cancelled on Wednesday, November 11, 2020, and on Friday, January 1, 2021.



Original story posted June 9, 2020

Gabriola’s ferry route is among those that will see sailings cut as BC Ferries continues to find ways to save money in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On June 5, Ferry Advisory Committee’s serving the BC Ferries minor routes received preliminary schedule proposals from BCF, asking for their input.

Steve Earle and Heather O’Sullivan are the co-Chairs of the Gabriola FAC.

Earle said on Tuesday, June 2, the Gabriola FAC was, “explicitly told that if we didn’t already have a separate meeting scheduled that our routes would not be cut.

“On Wednesday [June 3] we (the Gabriola FAC) received a request to attend a phone meeting on Thursday and were informed then that they intended to cut 124 “above contract” sailings from our route.

“They suggested that this would start later in June and continue through summer, fall and winter with deletion of one mid-day round-trip on Saturdays and Sundays.”

Earle said the FAC asked for time to discuss the schedule which had come from BC Ferries.

The current proposal from the FAC is to have the Gabriola route return to the old winter schedule, where all the sailings are kept, except the 1:50 pm sailing from Gabriola and 2:25 pm sailing from Nanaimo on weekends.

To meet the BC Ferries requirement to cut sailings, this would take effect for the final two weekends in June; and then start again after Labour Day and continue through to the end of March 2021. The exception being the Thanksgiving weekend.



Darin Guenette, Communications Manager for BC Ferries, provided the following information on Tuesday, June 9.

“BC Ferries is making small changes to some of its inter-island sailing schedules as part of our ongoing efforts to ensure the resiliency of our service and better match service levels to current demand.

“BC Ferries is removing sailings that are above our contracted levels of service with the Province, and are taking these steps in order to protect the core of the ferry system and ensure financial sustainability of our services into the future.

“The Gabriola route has sailings in place that are above the contract levels, so we identified these will the FAC…and worked with them to find a way to minimize the impact to the community.

“To this, the plan is to remove the 1:50pm/12:5pm sailings on Saturdays and Sundays between Thanksgiving and May long weekend, except for Easter weekends.

“We will monitor traffic levels and seek to make adjustments over time as demand and traffic projections warrant.”

Guenette said the company is trying to best match supply (sailings) to demand (traffic) as nimbly as it can. 

“This involves increasing/decreasing round-trips (within the bounds of our contract, of course) on the major routes as makes sense. 

“However, the measure of suspending the Departure Bay, Mill Bay/Brentwood Bay and Tsawwassen/S.Gulf Islands routes was a temporary reaction to early drastic traffic decline as COVID-19 effects were realized. We would not expect to return to those measures under normal traffic cycles.

“Several other inter-island routes also have sailings in place ‘above contract’, so we are also working at removing sailings as applicable on those routes with a goal of minimizing impact to the communities. None of these plans are finalized, but I can tell you they affect: Quadra-C.River, Quadra-Cortes, Buckley Bay-Denman, Denman-Hornby, Crofton-Vesuvius, Bowen Isl-Horseshoe Bay, Comox-Powell River, P.River-Texada, Saltery Bay-Earls Cove and between the two Haida Gwaii main islands.

“The total costs savings from these changes will help alleviate the significant financial impact we are forecasting due to COVID-19 effects, and as such, will help us keep the entire ferry network more financially stable.”