Once again, multiple ferry sailings between Salt Spring Island and Vancouver Island have been cancelled this weekend.
BC Ferries announced that due to crew shortage on the Skeena Queen, evening sailings between Fulford Harbour and Swartz Bay on July 22, 23, 24, and 25 have been cancelled on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. BC Ferries also warns the cancellations could continue through the week.
The affected sailings are the 5:50 p.m. sailing departing Fulford Harbour, the 7 p.m. sailing from Swartz Bay, the 7:50 p.m. sailing from Fulford Harbour and the 9 p.m. sailing departing Swartz Bay.
A 48-person water taxi is expected to provide service between the two islands beginning at 5:50 p.m. from Fulford Harbour.
“Customers opting to travel via water taxi are invited to leave their license plate number with the ticket agent in order to receive complimentary parking at Swartz Bay terminal. An alternative option for customers travelling between Salt Spring Island and Vancouver Island is to sail between Crofton and Vesuvius Bay,” BC Ferries said in a statement posted on its website.
All other sailings on the route are expected to operate as scheduled, according to BC Ferries.
“We require a specific number of crew members on board the vessel to ensure the safety of our passengers in the unlikely event of an emergency and to comply with Transport Canada regulations,” the company said on its website.
The cancellations have left Salt Spring residents and visitors scrambling.
“I mean this weekend is going to be incredibly difficult, I foresee huge lineups with the afternoon sailings, the Crofton-Vesuvius sailing will be utter mayhem,” said resident Dave French.
“It’s going to be really challenging to get back on Sunday afternoon because usually we’re on one of those last two ferries home so I think there will be a lot of scrambling to find a place to stay Sunday night or leave the meet early,” said Sara Benson who was travelling to Salt Spring for her son’s swim meet.
BC Ferries has been plagued with cancellations due to staff shortages recently. On Sunday, afternoon and evening sailings were cancelled between Fulford Harbour and Swartz Bay, Long Harbour and Tsawwassen, Long Harbour and Sturdies Bay and Sturdies Bay to Tsawwassen.
A 45-person water taxi was called in to ferry stranded passengers back and forth from Salt Spring Island, though some were stuck with their vehicles until they could catch a ferry Monday.
BC Ferries spokesperson, Deborah Marshall, eventually apologized to passengers for the short notice.
“We are continuously hiring and we are doing that in various areas. It is unfortunate when we do have to cancel at the last minute and we certainly apologize for that,” she told CHEK News on Monday.
The Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce said the constant cancellations are causing stress and difficulties for residents and businesses.
“From couriers to food delivery for the grocery stores, supplies, petrol, we need that lifeline from the ferries to be able to continue to operate so we can continue to live,” said Chamber Operations Manager Alexander Fischer-Jean.
Fischer-Jean says a lack of affordable housing for ferry workers may be contributing to the problems on the Salt Spring Island routes.
On Friday, BC Ferries’ chief executive officer, Mark Collins was fired. The move was announced by recently appointed BC Ferry Service Board chair Joy MacPhail.
Collins will be replaced by an interim CEO, Jill Sharland, while the company launched a “robust and professional search” to find a permanent CEO, MacPhail said.