BC Ferries vessel Skeena Queen pulls into the dock at Fulford Harbour on Salt Spring Island. (Black Press File Photo).

BC Ferries vessel Skeena Queen pulls into the dock at Fulford Harbour on Salt Spring Island. (Black Press File Photo).

BC Ferries faces calls for improved reliability on Swartz Bay-Fulford Harbour route

Recent mechanical breakdown resulted in sailing cancellations

The cancellation of ferry service between Fulford Harbour and Swartz Bay last week has raised questions about the reliability of that service.

Stephen Roberts, who lives on Salt Spring Island and campaigned for the BC Liberals during the last provincial election, described the cancellation of ferry service on Oct. 21 as a “debacle.” For him, it personally meant a four-hour-long detour to reach Sidney that day by way of the Vesuvius Bay-Crofton route following a one-sailing wait, then a trip over the Malahat.

BC Ferries cancelled all sailings on the route because the Skeena Queen suffered a mechanical breakdown. “We experienced mechanical problems with two of the four generators on the Skeena Queen last Wednesday,” said Astrid Chang, manager of communication for BC Ferries. “We are required to have three of four generators in proper working order to sail.”

BC Ferries responded by offering a 15-passenger water taxi service while alerting travellers to the VesuviusBay-Crofton route. The Skeena Queen can carry up to 450 passengers and crew, as well as 92 vehicles. BC Ferries also pressed the Bowen Queen into service for a midday round trip between Fulford Harbour and Swartz Bay.

The Skeena Queen returned to service the next day after crews installed a spare generator imported from the fleet’s maintenance unit in Richmond, said Chang. Built in 1997, the Skeena Queen had returned to service in March 2020 after undergoing a mid-life upgrade for required maintenance and enhanced customer experience.

While Roberts acknowledged that ferries break down, he said BC Ferries needs to do more to improve service as some Salt Spring residents use the route daily and the route is also an important route for commercial traffic and tourism.

RELATED: UPDATED: BC Ferries cancels additional sailings to Salt Spring Island

RELATED: Mechanical failure leaves nearly 200 passengers stranded on BC Ferries ship for hours

Adam Olsen, the returning MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, acknowledged that ferries break down, adding it is a fact of life for Island residents.

“But on the other (hand), it is a responsibility of the Ministry of Transportation to ensure that are alternatives there,” said Olsen. “This is a very disruptive thing to happen.”

The cancellations happened just two days after BC Greens had called for converting BC Ferries back into a Crown corporation. BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau had argued that the corporation’s current profit motive has undermined and eroded service reliability. She also pleaded for more passenger-only ferry service as part of a multi-modal, more environmentally-friendly service.

“I’m never going to say that a Crown corporation is going to be able to make sure that there are zero mechanical failures,” said Olsen. “But I will say that the governance structure is something that will absolutely need to be look at.”

Looking at available statistics, the annual report for 2020 (ending March 31) shows two cancellations of required round trips, one for weather, the other for mechanical failure. That figure gives the route a better rating than the entire service, 0.07 per cent compared to 0.44 per cent of required round trips cancelled.

According to BC Ferries, the route had seen a total of 662,431 passengers and 329,683 vehicles by March 2020, the end of the last fiscal year, with both figures down — 1.14 per cent for vehicles, 3.17 per cent for passengers compared to March 2019.


Do you have a story tip? Email: vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

bc ferry

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Police will be out in force to target drunk drivers this weekend as part of ICBC’s annual CounterAttack campaign. (Contributed - ICBC)
Police launch Christmas CounterAttack this weekend

On average, 11 people are killed in crashes involving impaired driving on the Island every year

Victoria police arrested a man in a Yates Street grocery store Nov. 27 after he refused to wear a mask. (Black Press Media File photo)
Belligerent man arrested in Victoria grocery store after refusing to wear mask

Officers fined the man $230 under the COVID-19 Related Measures Act

A 43-year-old woman is facing charges for impaired driving and leaving the scene of a crash after attempting to flee from police by driving down the beach in front of the Oak Bay Marina on Nov. 23. (Oak Bay Police/Twitter)
Victoria woman drives over seawall onto beach near Oak Bay Marina

Driver faces charges for fleeing crash, refusing breathalyzer test

Friends with Dorothy opens in Victoria.
LGBT2Q+ lounge Friends with Dorothy opens second location in Victoria

The Kelowna-based lounge plans to open in Victoria mid-December

Sig
Traffic delays expected on Monday from highway construction in Sooke

Single-lane alternating traffic between Otter Road and Caldwell Road

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks along the seawall in North Vancouver Wednesday, November 25, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
911 new COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths as B.C. sees deadliest week since pandemic began

Hospitalizations reach more than 300 across the province

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Most Read