After BC Ferries cancelled 48 sailings over the long weekend, many travellers seem to have had the idea of getting to the terminal early on Friday morning in order to travel between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay, resulting in multiple sailing waits.
Shortly before 2:15 p.m., BC Ferries updated that all of its sailings leaving Tsawwassen were sold out for vehicle space for the rest of the day, with space left for walk-on passengers only.
Those departing from Swartz Bay are faring a little better with room still available on the 4 p.m.
#BCFHeadsUp We are experiencing heavy traffic at #Tsawwassen today. Traffic control is in place to assist with directing reserved vehicles. Customers without a booking will face multiple sailing waits, and may not be able to travel.
Travel Advisory: https://t.co/WTNIITLkXb ^ts
— BC Ferries (@BCFerries) June 30, 2023
The cancellations are due to a refit on one of the vessels that serves the route taking longer than expected. The Coastal Celebration was due to be back in service on June 15, but that was delayed, resulting in the long weekend headache.
“The Coastal Celebration was originally scheduled to be out of its refit on June 15th and unfortunately that refit is taking longer than we had originally expected,” said BC Ferries Public Affairs Executive Director, Deborah Marshall.
The vessel is expected to return to service on July 4, pending trials on July 2.
Additionally, travellers between Nanaimo and Vancouver are facing similar difficulties.
Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay is fully booked for vehicle passengers for the day, with the next standby tickets being sold for 6:25 a.m. Saturday morning.
In the opposite direction, there is still room on the sailings after the 3:55 p.m. departure from Departure Bay.
On the Tsawwassen to Duke Point route, as of 2:55 p.m., there is 16 per cent of room for vehicles left of the last sailing of the day leaving Tsawwassen at 10:45 p.m.
Leaving Duke Point for Tsawwassen there is room on every sailing for the day.
BC Ferries website was briefly restored around 2:30 p.m., then at 3:30 the company updated that the website was once again unavailable.
In a statement, BC Ferries says it is working with IT to investigate the root cause of the outages the company has been experiencing over the past six days, but at this point the cause is undetermined.
“Until the root cause of the issue is identified, we are unable to provide specific comment on what measures need to be taken to resolve the issues we’re experiencing,” the statement says.
In a notice on its website, BC Ferries says the most popular times to travel are typically Friday afternoon and Saturday morning on the Canada Day long weekend leaving from Tsawwassen, and Monday and Tuesday mornings for Swartz Bay.
The company also encourages people to consider travelling as a foot passenger, as there is typically more room for foot passengers above the number of vehicle spaces.
However, foot passengers are advised to consider busing, taxi-ing, ride-sharing or finding other means of getting to the terminals, as parking lots often fill up quickly.
As of 8:40 a.m. on Friday, BC Ferries website showed the parking lot at Tsawwassen was 80 per cent full, with only 20 per cent of long-term parking available.
Swartz Bay had 36 per cent of the long-term parking available.
The ferry company says on June 29, around 5,300 vehicles and 20,000 passengers travelled on the Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay route. The July long weekend is the second-busiest for the ferry company, just behind the August long weekend.
According to BC Ferries, Coastal Celebration was taken out as part of the “strict maintenance schedule regulated by Transport Canada.” Around 20 vessels have to undergo planned maintenance events per year, half of which require the vessel to be taken out of water to dry dock.
There are only three shipyards in B.C. that can accommodate the larger BC Ferries vessels, two in Vancouver and the third in Victoria.
“This year, we received only one bid to undertake the work on the Coastal Celebration. The shipyard was able to accommodate our needs but due to their schedule and dry dock availability, the timing was tight – the dry dock could only occur between May 15 and June 13,” BC Ferries said in a statement.
“Due to complications with the ship using the dock prior to us, and no other dry dock space available, there was a cascading effect and our schedule buffer was depleted. A further complication arose once work was underway and some of the equipment on the vessel required unexpected repairs, leading to additional delays.”
During a press conference today, Minster Rob Flemming called the situation “unacceptable,” but added that the corporation is working to get its vessel back out onto the waters.
“They have taken some steps to at least forewarn the public what they can expect at our major terminals,” said the Transportation and Infrastructure Minister.