BC Ferries says it will refund RCMP, ambulance and BC Hydro for overcharged fees

Sounder News

Wednesday, January 21 2015

BC Ferries is refunding money which was overcharged to the RCMP, BC Ambulance Service (BCAS) and BC Hydro.

Early last week, media reports began to surface that BC Ferries was charging fees to the RCMP, BCAS and BC Hydro anytime any of the three services required a sailing to be delayed, or a ferry operated during off-hours.

The delay charge was based on whether an RCMP, BCAS or BC Hydro request delayed an on-time sailing for more than 10 minutes.

The new fee structure had been put in place on July 1, 2014.

A BC Ambulance out of Gabriola on board the Quinsam. Sounder file photo.

Leslie White, spokesperson for BC Emergency Health Services and BCAS, said that between July 1, 2014, and Dec. 31, 2014, there were two calls by BC Ambulance for the Quinsam to delay sailing because of an emergency.

According to White, BC Ferries charged $1,755 for each of the two sailing delays for a total of $3,510.

Cpl. Markus Müntener, Gabriola RCMP detachment commander, said he did not have the specific numbers available but that it was fewer than five times that Gabriola RCMP required a delay of sailing on the Quinsam.

BC Hydro did not respond to Sounder requests for comment prior to print time.

Similar numbers were reported by other coastal communities.

By Wednesday last week, BC Ferries CEO Mike Corrigan had gone on record saying the three government agencies had been mistakenly charged the same commercial rate normally charged to film companies and other agencies which can book sailing delays or off-hour sailings. Corrigan said the RCMP, BCAS and BC Hydro should have been charged the lower cost recovery rate.

Darin Guenette, spokesperson for BC Ferries, confirmed on Thursday that “BC Ferries will be refunding the difference between what it originally charged (charter rate) and its cost recovery rate to all three organizations since July 1, 2014.”

The difference to be refunded to the government agencies is estimated to be around $50,000 for charges incurred in the last half of 2014.

He explained that when BCF looks at a cost recovery fee, “it considers the cost of labour, fuel and any other costs that may apply for the vessel being called out. 

“It is important to note that there are two types of call-outs: call-outs that occur during the normal operating day, and call-outs that occur during “silent hours” when the ferry is not operating. 

“Daytime call-outs that end up causing a delay of 10 minutes or greater to a schedule that is running on time and silent hours call-outs will both have charges applied. The basic charge, on a cost recovery basis, is one hour during the day and three hours at night.”

Typically, the Gabriola ferry is not called out for transport to Nanaimo when the ferry is not operating, as both the RCMP and BCAS are able to utilize the Nanaimo Harbour Patrol boat to transport staff and those in their custody.

David Mailloux, Communications and Public Affairs Manager with the Nanaimo Port Authority, said that in 2014, the harbour patrol boat provided transport three times for the RCMP and 32 times for BC Ambulance.

BC EHS staff said on average, the cost of transporting with the Port Authority is between $734 and $784 per trip.

EHS staff added that whatever method is used to transport patients - be it BC Ferries, Harbour Patrol or Air Ambulance - the cost of transportation to British Columbians with a Medical Services Plan (MSP) who require ambulance transport via ground or air, with or without the assistance of an additional or delayed BC Ferries sailing, is heavily subsidized at $80.

For more information about ambulance fees please visit our website: http://www.bcas.ca/about-us/fees/

For Gabriolans who are members of the Gabriola Ambulance Society, if transport by ambulance on Gabriola is required, the cost of the ambulance ride is covered by the Society. Membership information available at www.gabriolaambulancesociety.org The Gabriola Ambulance Society does not operate ambulances on Gabriola and is no affiliated with the BC Ambulance Service. If an ambulance is required, please call 911.