BC Ferries is cancelling more sailings between the Sunshine Coast and Powell River as staffing shortages plague a busy Labour Day long weekend.
Saturday’s 7:05 p.m. and 9 p.m. sailings departing Saltery Bay (Powell River) and 8:05 p.m. and 10 p.m. sailings from Earls Cove (Sunshine Coast) were cancelled due to a lack of crew on the Malaspina Sky, according to the ferry service.
“The people there are livid,” a tipster at Earls Cove told CHEK News shortly after Saturday’s sailings were cancelled.
“The parking lot is full of vehicles trying to get back to Powell River, and there are no hotel rooms available in the entire lower Sunshine Coast.”
Sunday’s 5:35 a.m. sailing from Saltery Bay and 6 a.m. sailing from Earls Cove were also cancelled, and these two sailings are cancelled again on Monday, says BC Ferries in a service notice.
“Other sailings on this route are expected to proceed as scheduled, starting with the 7:25 a.m. departure from Saltery Bay and 8:20 a.m. departure from Earls Cove,” reads the notice.
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Service Notice here: https://t.co/FaIkUvIrbT ^vl
— BC Ferries (@BCFerries) September 3, 2023
One person took to Facebook to express their disappointment, saying around 7 p.m. Saturday that BC Ferries “has stranded 100s of people and cars at Earls Cove right now.”
They went on to say that “(BC Ferries isn’t) running any more ferries today. No staff! First they announced one round trip cancelled so people have been waiting three hours, now they’ve announced no more runs! Disgusting!”
On Facebook, The Cove Restaurant at Earls Cove also posted about the cancellations and urged travellers to consider alternate travel plans.
“There are no more ferries leaving Earls Cove for the evening,” read the post, “so please if you have not travelled up to the ferry consider making alternate plans or seeking accommodations in Sechelt as there are unfortunately no accommodation options available in the area this evening.
“Please pass this message along to anyone you know who may have planned to travel to Powell River this evening.”
BC Ferries is apologizing for any inconvenience.
“Unfortunately one of our crew members had an emergency as they were coming to work, so we did have to cancel the later sailings on the Earls Cove-Saltery Bay run,” Deborah Marshall, BC Ferries’ media spokesperson told CHEK News Sunday.
“We certainly apologize to those customers who were caught up in that. It was an unfortunate incident and we wish our employee all the best.”
Last week, B.C. Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said BC Ferries was working hard with the province on recruiting and retaining new employees.
“That doesn’t stabilize overnight, but they’ve done the right things, they are doing the right things,” Fleming told CHEK News.
4th busiest long weekend of the year
It’s expected both Sunday and Monday will be the busiest travel days as families head home and get ready for the new school year, which starts Tuesday.
In media updates Sunday, BC Ferries says traffic is flowing smoothly at major terminals but still urges travellers without a reservation to expect waits. It says customers with bookings should arrive 45-60 minutes before departure with their booking number ready at the ticket booth.
“We do have some space for standby traffic although it is limited, so we would suggest customers check out current conditions before they head out to terminals, and if they are travelling without a booking they can expect some sailings waits at peak times,” added Marshall in an interview.
The Labour Day long weekend is usually BC Ferries’ fourth busiest weekend of the year, behind BC Day, Canada Day and Thanksgiving, respectively.
“We are ready,” said BC Ferries CEO Nicolas Jimenez leading up to the long weekend.
The ferry service previously said it expected to transport roughly 200,000 vehicles and 520,000 passengers over the long weekend. On Saturday, for example, the company carried 51,310 passengers on its three major routes.