BC Ferries is warning that its terminals in Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen will be busier than usual this Canada Day long weekend amid an unplanned, extended refit that has removed a ship from service.
Between June 28 and July 3, three vessels will operate on that route instead of four as initially planned — shifting, but not cancelling, thousands of reservations on the Coastal Celebration.
The vessel sails between the two destinations and is currently undergoing mechanical work that’s taking longer than expected, according to BC Ferries. It should have been back in service on June 15.
“What our customer care team has done is they have shifted all the reservations that were scheduled to be on the Coastal Celebration. There’s about 6,600, and they’ve shifted those over to the three vessels that will be in operation for the long weekend,” Deborah Marshall, public relations director, told CHEK News.
Numerous sailings scrapped
That means fewer sailings each day with decreased customer capacity, explains Marshall. The remaining three vessels in service are the Spirit of Vancouver Island, the Spirit of British Columbia and the Queen of New Westminster.
“We had anticipated to have four vessels making eight sailings per day, so that would be 32 sailings. And so we are having to remove eight of those sailings from the schedule over the weekend,” said Marshall.
She says bookings won’t be cancelled, but sailings times may be altered. She’s apologizing to customers for any inconvenience.
“If a customer had a reservation on the Coastal Celebration, we have shifted them to the nearest sailing. For example, if you had an 8 o’clock sailing, you may be shifted to the 7 or the 9,” said Marshall.
“So everybody who made a booking is going to be just fine, but we do want to give a heads-up to customers who are planning on travelling stand by that they can expect multiple sailing waits on that route.”
Those without a booking, however, are “strongly encouraged to go as walk-on passengers given a limited number of spaces for standby vehicles on each sailing,” BC Ferries said in a release.
Premier David Eby understands the issue is due to a lack of repair parts, but he says ferries need to be more dependable.
“We’re going to see some impacts this weekend on the long weekend when families need it most,” Eby told CHEK News.
“I don’t find it acceptable, but I do understand the challenges that BC Ferries faces.”
Marshall’s anticipating a busy few days and says people can travel during off-peak hours Saturday night, Sunday morning or Tuesday afternoon to avoid the rush.
“Pack your patience,” she said.
“We do expect the terminals will be quite busy. We want to make sure we got all of our ticket booths open so we can process that traffic as quickly as possible. It’s going to be a hot weekend, so make sure you have plenty of water in the vehicle for yourself and any pets you may be carrying.”
Marshall says terminal parking lots fill up quickly, so she recommends walk-on passengers take public transit or carpool, if possible.
The Coastal Celebration should be back in service next week.
“I know that the shipyard, as well as our engineers, are working very hard to get that ship back in service just as quickly as we can,” added Marshall.