Victoria Harbour Ferry to halt operations temporarily due to contract dispute with GVHA

Victoria Harbour Ferry to halt operations temporarily due to contract dispute with GVHA
Victoria Harbour Ferry/File photo
The Victoria Harbour Ferry's harbour tour

A staple in Victoria’s Inner Harbour is stopping operations, at least temporarily.

Operations will be suspended on Tuesday, June 30.

Barry Hobbis, vice president of operations with Victoria Harbour Ferry, says the company has no choice but to take the boats out of the water after contract talks broke down with the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA)

According to Hobbis, the GVHA wasn’t asking for more money but wasn’t offering any discounts either.

And after the financial hit brought on by COVID-19, Victoria Harbour Ferry was looking for some concessions.

“At one o’clock this afternoon, Mr. Robertson [CEO of GVHA] took the helm, so to speak, and said basically ‘you’ve had lots of time to sign this, we’re not going to give you any more time we’re not changing the terms of the agreement and the termination letter still stands,'” Hobbis said.

Since a new agreement hasn’t been signed, the GVHA said the Victoria Harbour Ferry will not be operating on harbour authority property. This means Victoria Habour Ferry can’t access Fisherman’s Wharf and the Inner Harbour dock by the Fairmont Empress, which accounts for 80 per cent of the ferry company’s business.

“Unfortunately, the owner of Victoria Harbour Ferry has refused to sign an agreement with us at this time and because of this they are unable to operate on our properties,” Ian Robertson, CEO of the GVHA said in a statement.

“Agreements with GVHA are in place for the insurance and legal purposes, as with any landlord-tenant arrangement.

We regret that the owner has made the decision to suspend operations rather than work with us to sign an agreement.”

Robertson said the management team with GVHA has been working with the Victoria Harbour Ferry for the past month to try and establish an agreement. As that was going on, the GVHA said it allowed the ferry to restart its operations “as a sign of good faith” following a COVID-19 shutdown.

“We look forward to working with this company when their agreement is signed,” Robertson said.

“During the past several months, our team has worked to support several commercial tenants that hold agreements with us.”

The GVHA said it has created a rent deferral program for all tenants, which has allowed for deferrals from April, May, and June to be paid back up to June 2021. It is also process of submitting an application to the Canadian Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program.

“Due to the suspension of cruise in Canada until October 31, 2020, our organization will not receive 70% of our forecasted revenues, or $12.5 million, for this fiscal,” Robertson said.

“For our organization to operate without agreements in place with our commercial tenants only puts us at further risk.

We are all in this together, so a collaborative approach that is solutions-focused remains a top priority for our community-based, not-for-profit organization.”

Victoria Harbour Ferry has been operating in Victoria waterways for 30 years.


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