Sailing delays, major backups at terminals caused by police incident on BC Ferries vessel

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Traffic was backed up on the Pat Bay Highway near the Swartz Bay terminal after a police incident on a BC Ferries vessel led to long delays, Aug. 26, 2022.

BC Ferries is advising travellers without reservations to avoid sailing from Tsawwassen on Friday as a result of major delays caused after a man was arrested and another went missing following a disturbance on the Coastal Inspiration Thursday night.

The 3:15 p.m., 5:45 p.m., 8:15 p.m. and 10:45 p.m. Coastal Inspiration and the Coastal Renaissance sailings departing both Tsawwassen (Vancouver) and Duke Point (Nanaimo) have been cancelled for Friday, Aug. 26. Several other sailings, including the 8 a.m. sailing from Tsawwassen, 5:15 a.m. from Duke Point and 5:15 a.m. from Tsawwassen, already faced major delays, departing 56 minutes, 134 minutes and 156 minutes behind schedule, respectively.

There have also been significant volumes of traffic at the Tsawwassen terminal, with departures between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay (Victoria) and Tsawwassen and the Southern Gulf Islands have been delayed as a result.

Deborah Marshall, media spokesperson for BC Ferries, said in an interview those without reservations and are planning to travel through any of BC Ferries’ major terminals, including Horseshoe Bay, should consider travelling by foot or holding off until tomorrow.

“I wouldn’t suggest heading to Horseshoe Bay if you don’t have a reservation, the terminal is extremely busy. If customers are wanting to head over to the Mainland, take a good look at our current conditions,” she said.

Additionally, there are major backups on the Pat Bay Highway leading to the Swartz Bay ferry terminal on southern Vancouver Island caused by the delays and cancellations.

READ ALSO: 1 arrested, 1 unaccounted for following ‘disturbance’ on BC Ferries vessel

On Thursday, the 8:15 p.m. the Coastal Inspiration sailing from Duke Point to Tsawwassen was forced to turn around due to a disturbance. One person was eventually arrested by officers, who boarded the vessel when it returned to Duke Point.

Another person was missing, but Nanaimo RCMP provided an update Friday afternoon saying that person was found safe at around noon and that the vehicle belonging to him, seized by police after it was left on the vessel, has been returned.

Marshall said the entire ordeal has caused crewing shortages and delays that have had a major “knock-on effect” on the entire BC Ferries network. She said customers should expect delays throughout Friday.

“We do expect to be extremely busy on the sailings between Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island for the rest of the day. What we’ve seen is some spillover traffic over on the Mainland. Traffic is moving over to Horseshoe Bay terminal to travel to Departure Bay,” she said.

The two vessels — the Coastal Inspiration and the Coastal Renaissance — that operate the Duke Point-Tsawwassen route ran extremely late last night as a result of the incident, causing the crews to work longer than usual and miss their scheduled afternoon shifts, according to Marshall.

“They were the crew that were supposed to crew the vessels today and we had to stand them down because, obviously, they need sufficient rest,” Marshall said.

Both of those Coastal Class vessels require a minimum of 33 crew members in order to operate. Marshall said with 66 crew members requiring rest, BC Ferries simply didn’t have enough crew on standby to bring in on such short notice, which is why the afternoon sailings on the Duke Point- Tsawwassen route have been cancelled.

“We don’t have the resiliency to backfill 66 people on such short notice,” she said.

Earlier sailings on the Duke Point route were able to go ahead because BC Ferries had a “fresh” set of crew members scheduled to work the morning runs, said Marshall.

Another issue has been the massive volume of traffic at the Tsawwassen terminal, which has caused BC Ferries crews trying to make their shifts for other sailings late.

“Because there was so much traffic there at the beginning of the day that not only were customers having issues getting to the terminal but our crews use that same road network, so they had issues trying to get to work on time,” said Marshall.

That, Marshall said, has resulted in delays on the Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay route as well as others throughout Friday.

“We do have four vessels operating between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay but several of those ships are running behind schedule,” said Marshall. “Our crews, I know they are trying to maximize the number of cars that we are putting on each vessel because of the knock-on effect with the cancellations on the Duke Point run, we are trying to move as many customers as we can.”

BC Ferries has said that its customer service team will contact customers with bookings on cancelled sailings to let them know their booking must be cancelled and the fees/fares will be refunded. Up-to-date sailing and departure information can be found online here.

This is a developing story and will be updated when more information becomes available.

Nicholas PescodNicholas Pescod
Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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