Anyone checking the BC Ferries website on Tuesday was met with the news that the Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen route was booked for most of the day, but the company says that is not accurate.
Karen Johnston, executive director of communications and engagement for BC Ferries, says as a result of the Coastal Celebration being pulled from service, reservations made for those sailings were moved to other sailings resulting in high levels of the sailings being booked out.
“Our Current Condition system assumes that everyone who has a booking is going to show up for those booked sailings,” Johnston said. “So we hold the space, and everything looks like it sold out. This morning, however, we saw a large number of those with bookings not show up at the terminal for their sailing.”
Since those with reservations are required to show up half an hour before their sailing, at that time additional space would open up on each sailing for those who showed up at the terminal in hopes of making it on a ferry.
When BC Ferries realized what the issue was, Johnston says terminal crews started manually overriding the Current Conditions page to more accurately reflect terminal traffic.
However, the issues on Tuesday were far from an isolated incident. BC Ferries has been experiencing issues over recent weeks, culminating when the Coastal Celebration was pulled due to mechanical issues.
On Monday, Colleen and Ron Gunter showed up at the terminal mid-afternoon and were told there was no room for the rest of the day.
The seniors ended up needing to sleep in their car at the ferry terminal to wait for the next available sailing.
“Let me assure you, we were not the only ones,” Ron told CHEK News. “We talked to numerous people in the parking lot who were turned away.”
Johnston says the company hopes to have news soon on when the Coastal Celebration will return to service. The ferry is currently in dry dock and the engineers will be examing the issue Tuesday evening and will give a sense then of how long it will take to fix.
“The hope is to have the Coastal Celebration back into service for this weekend,” Johnston said. “That is the hope. We’ll have a good sense tomorrow morning, and of course, as soon as we can advise our customers, we will be putting out a media advisory to tell people when she’ll be back on the run.”
-With files from CHEK’s Rob Shaw