BC Ferries suspends some routes, lays off hundreds due to COVID-19

WatchAs of tomorrow, BC Ferries is suspending service along some routes and cutting sailings on others.

As ridership continues to plummet due to the COVID-19 pandemic, BC Ferries is suspending service along some routes and cutting sailings on others for the next 60 days.

All sailings between Nanaimo’s Departure Bay and Horseshoe Bay are cancelled, as well as trips between Mill Bay and Brentwood Bay.

Regular trips between Tsawwassen and Duke Point, and Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay, are reduced to only four sailings a day, along with many other reductions in service for other ferry destinations.

Although passenger trips are reduced, BC Ferries is adding four cargo-only trips to ensure essential items can be delivered to the Island from the mainland.

Due to the severe reduction in service, BC Ferries has laid off hundreds of employees.

“Through this challenging time, our employees have demonstrated courage and determination to support coastal ferry service,” said Mark Collins, BC Ferries’ President and CEO. “Unfortunately, these service level reductions will result in temporary layoffs for hundreds of dedicated and loyal employees.”

The Coastal Ferry Services Contract with the Province of British Columbia has been amended to permit these service reductions.

Most service reductions will go into effect on Saturday, April 4.

BC Ferries said it will monitor service levels throughout this time to follow the guidelines set out by health officials to ensure essential service levels are maintained, and to determine when full service will be back up and running.

“These changes are designed to ensure we have sufficient capacity to allow the flow of essential goods, services, supplies and workers to their destinations,” said Collins.

“We will continue to transport the goods communities rely on, and we will get people to where they need to go.”

The BC Ferry and Marine Workers’ Union (BCFMWU) said the sudden layoffs have blindsided the union and has “caused concern these layoffs may happen in violation of clear provisions of their collective agreement.”

“A sudden layoff without notice and other provisions of severance laid out in their collective agreements would be devastating to these workers and their families,” BCFMWU Provincial President Graeme Johnston said in a statement. “We call on BC Ferries to honour the collective agreement while they adjust to service reductions.”

The union said all employees must receive notice of layoff and an option of severance pay, as laid out in the collective agreement.”

“We expected a workforce adjustment given the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, but in the spirit of ‘getting through this together’ we expected more from BC Ferries. These workers and their families deserve better,” Johnson said in a statement.

BCFMWU said it has committed to take any legal action required to protect the rights of its members and remains open to working cooperatively to “facilitate the workforce adjustment in the best manner possible for the employees affected.

See below for the complete list of service changes made by BC Ferries effective April 4.

  • Regular sailings on the Tsawwassen – Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen – Duke Point are
    reduced to four round trips a day from the present eight on both routes
  • Four additional “cargo only” round trips will be provided on the Tsawwassen – Duke
    Point route, to ensure essential goods are transported to and from Vancouver Island
  • Service on the Langdale – Horseshoe Bay route is reduced to six round trips a day from
    the present eight
  • All service on the Horseshoe Bay – Nanaimo route is suspended
  • All service on the Mill Bay – Brentwood Bay route is suspended
  • For northern and mid-coast communities, service will continue to operate at the current
    off-peak (winter) service levels. The summer direct service from Bella Coola to Port
    Hardy will not be introduced at this time
  • Changes will be coming to the Tsawwassen – Southern Gulf Islands and Swartz Bay –
    Southern Gulf Islands service. Details are currently being finalized and will be announced

The remaining routes and schedules are unchanged for now. BC Ferries says maintaining the delivery of essential goods and services and ensuring that health care and other essential workers can continue to use the ferry to commute to work will be a priority.

The company is still advising customers to avoid all non-essential travel.

Schedule Adjustments Effective Saturday, April 4:

  •  Tsawwassen – Swartz Bay (Vancouver – Victoria) will operate with four departures
    from each terminal daily: Exit Swartz Bay: 9 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Exit Tsawwassen: 7 a.m., 11 a.m., 5 p.m., 9 p.m.
  • Tsawwassen – Duke Point (Vancouver – Nanaimo) route will operate with four
    departures from each terminal daily: Exit Tsawwassen: 7:45 a.m., 12:45 p.m., 5:45 p.m., 10:45 p.m. Exit Duke Point: 5:15 a.m., 10:15 a.m., 3:15 p.m., 8:15 p.m.
  • Tsawwassen – Duke Point (Vancouver – Nanaimo) route will operate with four
    CARGO ONLY departures from each terminal Monday through Friday. These sailings
    are reserved for the movement of commercial goods and essential service workers. Exit Tsawwassen: 5:15 a.m, 10:15 a.m., 3:15 p.m., 8:15 p.m. Exit Duke Point: 7:45 a.m., 12:45 p.m., 5:45 p.m., 10:45 p.m.
  • Horseshoe Bay – Langdale (West Vancouver – Sunshine Coast) route will operate
    with six departures from each terminal daily. Exit Langdale: 6:20 a.m., 8:40 a.m., 10:50 a.m., 3:15 p.m., 5:25 p.m., 7:40 p.m. Exit Horseshoe Bay: 7:30 a.m., 9:45 a.m., 11:55 a.m., 4:20 p.m., 6:35 p.m., 8:45 p.m.

For full schedules and more information about travelling with BC Ferries during the COVID-19 situation the BC Ferries website.


Rebecca LawrenceRebecca Lawrence

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