Long weekend gets off to rough start for BC Ferries passengers to and from Nanaimo

Long weekend gets off to rough start for BC Ferries passengers to and from Nanaimo
Tugboats pulled the Queen of Oak Bay into port at Departure Bay after a mechanical failure early April 14, 2022.

Multiple sailings out of Nanaimo have been cancelled ahead of the Easter Long Weekend after a mechanical failure late Wednesday evening stranded passengers on the Queen of Oak Bay.

BC Ferries has announced this morning that the 6:15 a.m. and 10:40 a.m. departing Horseshoe Bay and the 8:25 a.m. and the 1:00 p.m. out of Departure Bay have been cancelled on Thursday due to mechanical issues.

The issue involves mechanical failure with the vessel’s steering gear.

The company says they are working to resolve the issue as soon as possible, however, it is unclear if more cancellations will occur.

Customers are being urged by BC Ferries to use Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay route or the Tsawwassen to Duke Point route as an alternate travel option, as well as consider travelling as a foot passenger.

“Our Customer Service Centre will contact customers shortly with bookings on these cancelled sailings to let them know if we have space available to fit them on an alternate sailing or if their booking must be cancelled,” reads a statement from BC Ferries. “In the case of a cancellation, we will refund fees and/or fares.”

The mechanical issues occurred on a sailing late Wednesday night.

Passengers said the 8:05 p.m. sailing between Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay left 30 minutes late but then a mechanical issue later in the sailing left the ferry adrift in the Salish Sea.

BC Ferries called in a tug to pull the ferry to shore which arrived at the boat around 11:45 p.m.

BC Ferries customers said they were told the ferry would arrive at 1 a.m. The first passengers disembarked around 1:30 a.m.

Pictures from inside the boat show exhausted passengers who were stranded for over four hours on the vessel.

“It was fine, it was just long,” said passenger Neil Marshall. “I guess it was a problem with the steering so we just sat there for a while, and then they had to bring in some tugs to take us in. So it was just a slow process of I think turning the ship around, and it was certainly slow getting us into the port.”

Marshall said crew began handing out coffee, tea and hot chocolate for anyone who wanted it and while everyone remained calm, some people were tense about the long delay.

Others like Nanaimo’s Doug Hanson were upset by what they called a lack of communication with foot passengers preparing to disembark from a lower deck.

“There was very little communication with the passengers and what they did communicate was wrong,” said Hanson. “An hour before docking, they sent foot passengers down to the deck. People were getting extremely cold.”

He said eventually, people were told to go back up to the warmer upper floors.

“My concern is that this was a mechanical emergency. what if it was a true emergency, how would the crew perform? I was not impressed,” he said.

The ferry company says that the Queen of Cowichan will sail additional round trips on Wednesday, April 20 and Thursday, April 21 to assist with traffic volumes, departing at 8:05 p.m. and 10:10 p.m. from Departure Bay and Horseshoe Bay respectively.

Sleeping on Queen of Oak Bay BC Ferries

Some passengers went to sleep on the benches in the Queen of Oak Bay’s cafeteria

With files from CHEK’s Kendall Hanson.


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