BC Ferries plans sailing cancellations for March 12, first day of Spring Break

Sounder News

Tuesday, March 1 2016

BC Ferries is planning on cancelling two sailings on Saturday, March 12, to conduct safety drills and a deployment of the Quinsam’s evacuation system.

Cancelled are the 1:10 p.m. sailing from Nanaimo and the 3:05 p.m. sailing from Gabriola.

Typically on Saturdays, the 1:50 p.m. Nanaimo departure and 2:25 p.m. Gabriola departure are already cancelled.

What this means is there will be no ferry leaving Nanaimo between 11:55 a.m. and 3:45 p.m.

From Gabriola, there will be no sailings after 12:35 p.m. until 4:20 p.m.

In a service notice placed on the BC Ferries website, the corporation states, “We apologize for any inconvenience experienced as a result of these sailing cancellations.”

John Hodgkins, Chair of the Gabriola Ferry Advisory Commission, said he first became aware of the proposed cancellations on February 15, and contacted Darin Guenette (BC Ferries Communications Manager) to express concerns about the timing of the cancellations.

Hodgkins wrote to Guenette saying, “I am concerned that the sailings selected for cancellation will result in a service gap of almost four hours in the middle of the day (because of the gap in service that already exists on Saturdays), which will not only inconvenience a great many of your customers, but has the potential to seriously impact on patient safety should an ambulance transfer be required.”

Hodgkins also reminded Guenette that March 12 is the first Saturday of Spring Break, and will be the first Saturday on which the BC Ferries passenger fare 30 per cent discount will be offered (including the 1:10 p.m. sailing).

Hodgkins asked, “How much time is required for these safety drills and deployment? Is it more than can be accommodated within the time taken to complete one round trip? Have you investigated whether there is a less disruptive time for these drills to be carried out - maybe early Sunday morning (cancelling just the 6:15 a.m. departure from Gabriola and conducting the drills ahead of the regular Sunday morning drill time?).

“If the requirement is for no more than 1.25 hours, could you perhaps operate an extra sailing at 1:50 p.m. from Gabriola (instead of the 3:05 p.m.) to give you the required time in Nanaimo before returning at 3:45?

“I appreciate the obligation to conduct such drills, but I anticipate a significant reaction to this extended service gap in the middle of a Saturday. A better understanding of the time required may help avert some of these complaints.”

Guenette was also asked by the Sounder as to why the Saturday sailings were chosen for cancellation for the safety drills.

As of press time, Guenette had provided no response or explanation to the Sounder other than to say, “I will look into getting you more detail on how these sailings were selected for conducting drills.”

Gabriola Island Trustee Heather O’Sullivan was working with Hodgkins to try and get BC Ferries to adjust their safety drill schedule when the Sounder went to press.

She said, “While I appreciate BC Ferries’ commitment to safety, it would be ideal if drills and training exercises could be scheduled to minimize the impact on the community. 

Cancelling service on a Saturday doesn’t seem to achieve that, particularly when the missing trip coincides with the existing hole in the schedule created by our lost afternoon weekend sailing, creating nearly a four-hour gap for people who wish to travel. 

“It’s my hope that BC Ferries will be able to find a different option; perhaps a less busy day than the first day of March Break, when fewer passengers will be inconvenienced.”