Increased trouble loading longer vehicles on Island Class Ferries, says committee

Increased trouble loading longer vehicles on Island Class Ferries, says committee

The Gabriola Ferry Advisory Committee is warning travellers that more vehicles are missing sailings since the arrival of the Island Class Ferries.

BC Ferries says it’s always had an issue loading and unloading longer or low vehicles at extreme low or high tides. The committee argues the problems are happening more often with tides that aren’t quite as extreme as those that caused problems with the former ferries.

“The way the old dock fits the new ferry, it makes it difficult at low tides and high tides to get long loads on board,” said Steven Earle, chair of the committee.

The committee put up a notice on its website warning of the issue. On the Gabriola Island route, they’ve had an Island Class Ferry since April 2022.

“We first started noticing it within a couple of weeks because I don’t think anyone anticipated the problem, or if they did, they didn’t tell us, so, at the beginning, it was happening quite frequently because people weren’t aware of it,” said Earle.

The problem was highlighted on June 6 on the Campbell River to Quadra Island route.

“My initial thought was you got to be kidding. We just finished camping, and we just wanted to get home. We have three kids and it was over lunch hour, so we had to figure out where to eat,” said Quadra Island resident Jamie Swanson.

Swanson’s family was heading home to Quadra Island, pulling their 21-foot RV, when they arrived at the Campbell River ferry terminal.

It was 11:20 a.m. and near low tide. They were told the next favourable sailing was at 3 p.m. They weren’t alone.

“There were at least three lanes of RVs, so when we finally did run, almost the entire ferry had RVs on it,” said Swanson, who noted a number of vehicles didn’t make that sailing as they would have if the backlog of RVs weren’t there. She says she’s seen the same thing happen to another sailing since.

The new Island Class ferries to Quadra Island have only been running since January.

BC Ferries says it’s unsure how many vehicles have missed sailings during extreme tides.

“I don’t have all the stats in front of me, but I know we’ve had a few occasions where we’ve seen some extreme tides, like at Campbell River a couple of weeks ago, where it was the safe thing to do to wait for that tidal exchange to occur,” said Deborah Marshall, the company’s executive director of public affairs.

BC Ferries says it’s now putting out advisories for sailings that it believes will be affected, but for some, that’s not good enough.

“I don’t think that warning people is good enough either,” added Swanson.

“I think there needs to be a solution. This is the very first summer where we have these ferries, and this can not be for the lifetime of these ferries.”

BC Ferries says there are plans for capital projects at many terminals, but most are still years away.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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