BC Ferries setting up for increased capacity on Gabriola route

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, February 27 2018

While the MV Quinsam may have many more years of service in her, there may not be as many left for her on BC Ferries Route 19, connecting Gabriola Island to Nanaimo.

Darin Guenette, Manager of Public Affairs with BC Ferries (BCF) said this past week the company has two processes going on right now, both of have an impact on  Route 19.

The first is the Terminal Development Plan for Route 19, which the Gabrola Ferry Advisory Committee (FAC) announced in it’s press release last week.

Guenette said the Terminal Development Plan (TDP) is a way of planning for future terminal development on Route 19 (both the Gabriola and Nanaimo terminals) by looking at, “what is/is not working now; what are seen as future needs from the terminals; and developing terminal designs that can best meet those needs.”

 He added a big part of a Terminal Development Plan is engagement with stakeholders (such as the FAC) and the public.

The second process taking place is BC Ferries’ ongoing analysis of vessel deployment, and options for moving ships around. 

Guenette said, “we are well aware that [Route 19] is very busy, and the current capacity provided by the combination of the ship size and number of sailings is becoming challenging at times. 

“Thus, as part of our vessel replacement program (retiring vessels that are reaching end-of-life and building new vessels), we are able to look at how current vessels may also be redeployed when new ones come into service.”

So although the Quinsam itself is not nearing its end-of-life, acquisition of new vessels in the next 5 or so years should allow BC Ferries to consider if moving the Quinsam to another route while introducing a larger capacity vessel onto the Gabriola route makes good sense, and better matches demand (traffic) with supply (service capacity).

Guenette said the two analyses (terminal planning and vessel changes) operate hand-in-hand, “as we need to look at the total service package of terminal and vessel capabilities. 

“I suggest that having this discussion at the May [Gabriola] FAC meeting will be the most productive way to explore this further. 

“Prior to that, the TDP team are expecting to conduct other engagement in the community anyways…so you will surely be invited to participate in how that is proceeding as well.”

A larger vessel, and larger capacity, might mean putting even more pressure on the downtown Nanaimo Harbour terminal as well as the Gabriola terminal and lineup on Taylor Bay Road.

Guenette said this is the, “crux of looking at these terminal long-term needs…one cannot just add a larger ship to current terminals if they are constrained (ie. limited/no holding compounds, roadways leading to terminals that are congested, et cetera) already.

“Sometimes the solution lies in adjusting/adding sailings (difficult on that route, granted) or replacing one vessel with two vessels; this allows us to ‘empty holding lots/lineups’ more frequently. There are pros/cons of all our planning options, of course.”

Guenette said so far only the Gabriola FAC has been engaged at this point, but the City of Nanaimo (and other Nanaimo-side organizations) are on the list of stakeholders BC Ferries plans to reach out to.

“I think you will see this TDP process is fairly thorough, and we need to hear all the ideas/issues from all stakeholders to try and get the long-term plan right.”