Larger vessel not a solution for long lineups, according to BCF

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, August 9 2016

BC Ferries is saying a larger vessel is neither possible nor likely as the solution to lineup woes which have plagued Gabriola for the past month.

Darin Guenette, Manager of BC Ferries Public Affairs, explained that the marine superintendents say it is more financially feasible to look at options in the sailing schedules as a way of increasing route capacity, “as vessel redeployment can be much more expensive and complicated.”

Vehicle capacity appears to be the major problem for the Quinsam on the Gabriola route.

The Quinsam carries a dual licence for passenger capacity from Transport Canada. According to Guenette, not once in the past month has the Quinsam hit the passenger capacity.

“In fact, across all routes, this is quite rare that we ever get a passenger overload. 

“I have seen it if a large group (school, tourism, etc.) arrives for a busy sailing unexpectedly…and the vessel may not have had reason to be sailing on their highest licence…but indeed very few times every year.”

As such, the overloads are coming from the Quinsam’s lack of space for more vehicles, and having long lineups on both sides of the route at the same time.

Her current schedule, set up through laborious consultation with the Gabriola Ferry Advisory Committee (FAC), allows for a long turnaround time at one end per round trip and a time-recovery on the other end - not a constant stacking of long turnarounds on both sides. 

While islanders might point to a larger vessel as being a solution to this, Guenette said even if there were a larger vessel available in the fleet – and there is not - to come to Gabriola, the costs of doing so would not be recouped through any increase in revenue.”

The problem, as FAC Chair John Hodgkins has pointed out, is there is not a lot of room left during the day to add more sailings, even if BC Ferries was willing to put them in there somewhere. Particularly in the 9:00 a.m. to noon portion of the day, when the lineups reach two-sailing waits deep to Ivory Way.

The question of vessel size has larger implications for Gabriola as well. Currently, BC Ferries has a long-term vision to replace the current fleet with a fleet made up of three standardized sizes of vessels.

The smallest of these will have a capacity of roughly 50 vehicles.

The intermediate size, the three Salish-class vessels currently being built in Poland, will carry 145 vehicles.

The Quinsam, referred to by BC Ferries as a “Super-Q” class, carries 70 vehicles.

So far, BC Ferries has not revealed what the long-term replacement plan is for the Quinsam, just saying at the latest FAC meeting that there is no plan in place for replacing her, with either a smaller or larger vessel.