Hodgkins questions why FAC wasn’t consulted on sailing cancellations

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, March 8 2016

John Hodgkins, Chair of the Gabriola Ferry Advisory Commission (FAC), is pleased to see a water taxi being used to fill in the sailing gaps coming this Saturday afternoon.

He is, however, concerned that the FAC was not consulted prior to BC Ferries making the decision to cancel the sailings, even if just for the one afternoon.

The 1:10 departing Nanaimo and the 3:05 departing Gabriola will be cancelled this Saturday while BC Ferries runs a marine safety drill which will include a full deployment of the emergency systems.

After hearing concerns from the FAC this past week, BC Ferries added in two water taxi round trips which will match the 1:10 and 2:25 departures from Nanaimo and the 1:50 and 3:45 departures from Gabriola.

Gabriola departures will leave from the Regional District of Nanaimo Emergency Wharf adjacent to the BC Ferries dock.

As of press time, BC Ferries has not said where the water taxi will dock on the Nanaimo side or where walk-on passengers can get tickets for boarding. 

Past operations of the water taxi have docked at F Dock in the Nanaimo Harbour. Tickets have had to be purchased at the Nanaimo Harbour BC Ferries booth prior to passengers going to F Dock. 

Guenette said that information will be posted on the BC Ferries website; at the Nanaimo Harbour booth; and on board the Quinsam prior to March 12.

Hodgkins said it is unfortunate that the gap in service will occur, but the provision of the water taxi will go some way to minimizing problems for BC Ferries customers on the Gabriola route.

“What remains an issue for me,” said Hodgkins, “is why it was not thought appropriate to engage with the FAC at the time this deployment was being planned? 

“Isn’t this exactly what a FAC exists for? I would have hoped that almost any FAC member would have been able to advise on the impact of this proposal and avoid the need for a defensive, last-minute reaction.” 

He cited the fact that March 12 is not only the first Saturday of Spring Break, but is also the first Saturday of the BC Ferries’ Passenger Fare Promotion (passengers get 30 per cent off select sailings).

Darin Guenette, Public Affairs Manager for BC Ferries, said the drills were planned for a Saturday “to minimize ‘weekday inconveniences’ that occur during a busier time when people are generally travelling for less discretionary reasons. 

“This is a regulatory deployment that must be done in March, and we are unable to conduct this at any other time this month.”

In his correspondence to BC Ferries, Hodgkins had also expressed a concern that cancelling that many sailings would hamper the ability of BC Ambulance Service (BCAS) staff to transport patients to Nanaimo.

Preet Grewal, Communications Officer with BC Emergency Health Services, said that if and when the Quinsam is not available to transport patients in the ambulance, “we utilize the Nanaimo Harbour Patrol vessel to transport patients from Gabriola as required. We can also call upon an air ambulance to transport a critical patient if required.”