BC Ferries vessel Skeena Queen pulls into the dock at Fulford Harbour on Salt Spring Island. (Black Press File Photo).

BC Ferries vessel Skeena Queen pulls into the dock at Fulford Harbour on Salt Spring Island. (Black Press File Photo).

BC Ferries faces calls for improved reliability on Swartz Bay-Fulford Harbour route

Recent mechanical breakdown resulted in sailing cancellations

The cancellation of ferry service between Fulford Harbour and Swartz Bay last week has raised questions about the reliability of that service.

Stephen Roberts, who lives on Salt Spring Island and campaigned for the BC Liberals during the last provincial election, described the cancellation of ferry service on Oct. 21 as a “debacle.” For him, it personally meant a four-hour-long detour to reach Sidney that day by way of the Vesuvius Bay-Crofton route following a one-sailing wait, then a trip over the Malahat.

BC Ferries cancelled all sailings on the route because the Skeena Queen suffered a mechanical breakdown. “We experienced mechanical problems with two of the four generators on the Skeena Queen last Wednesday,” said Astrid Chang, manager of communication for BC Ferries. “We are required to have three of four generators in proper working order to sail.”

BC Ferries responded by offering a 15-passenger water taxi service while alerting travellers to the VesuviusBay-Crofton route. The Skeena Queen can carry up to 450 passengers and crew, as well as 92 vehicles. BC Ferries also pressed the Bowen Queen into service for a midday round trip between Fulford Harbour and Swartz Bay.

The Skeena Queen returned to service the next day after crews installed a spare generator imported from the fleet’s maintenance unit in Richmond, said Chang. Built in 1997, the Skeena Queen had returned to service in March 2020 after undergoing a mid-life upgrade for required maintenance and enhanced customer experience.

While Roberts acknowledged that ferries break down, he said BC Ferries needs to do more to improve service as some Salt Spring residents use the route daily and the route is also an important route for commercial traffic and tourism.

RELATED: UPDATED: BC Ferries cancels additional sailings to Salt Spring Island

RELATED: Mechanical failure leaves nearly 200 passengers stranded on BC Ferries ship for hours

Adam Olsen, the returning MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, acknowledged that ferries break down, adding it is a fact of life for Island residents.

“But on the other (hand), it is a responsibility of the Ministry of Transportation to ensure that are alternatives there,” said Olsen. “This is a very disruptive thing to happen.”

The cancellations happened just two days after BC Greens had called for converting BC Ferries back into a Crown corporation. BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau had argued that the corporation’s current profit motive has undermined and eroded service reliability. She also pleaded for more passenger-only ferry service as part of a multi-modal, more environmentally-friendly service.

“I’m never going to say that a Crown corporation is going to be able to make sure that there are zero mechanical failures,” said Olsen. “But I will say that the governance structure is something that will absolutely need to be look at.”

Looking at available statistics, the annual report for 2020 (ending March 31) shows two cancellations of required round trips, one for weather, the other for mechanical failure. That figure gives the route a better rating than the entire service, 0.07 per cent compared to 0.44 per cent of required round trips cancelled.

According to BC Ferries, the route had seen a total of 662,431 passengers and 329,683 vehicles by March 2020, the end of the last fiscal year, with both figures down — 1.14 per cent for vehicles, 3.17 per cent for passengers compared to March 2019.


Do you have a story tip? Email: vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

bc ferry

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tourists are being asked to postpone their non-essential trips to Tofino as COVID-19 cases rise across Vancouver Island, but at least one accommodation provider is offering conflicting messaging. (Westerly file photo)
Victoria woman says Tofino Airbnb host encouraged travel despite provincial restrictions

“The only way I would get a refund is if she would be able to rebook the suite for that weekend.”

A Victoria-based orthopedic surgeon has been reprimanded after using sexualized language during a surgical consult with a pre-teen patient. (Pixabay)
Victoria doctor fined and reprimanded for calling pre-teen patient a ‘loose woman’

Dr. Bruce Taro Yoneda admitted to using sexualized language in surgical consult

Victoria police are asking for the public’s help locating Alexander Stokes, 19. (Courtesy of VicPD)
Victoria police searching for missing teen

Police looking to ensure safety of Alexander Stokes, 19

Capital Regional District Animal Control say an eight-month-old Rottweiler bit a Langford mother and her child near Glen Lake on Nov. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Large dog attacks mother and child in Langford

Mother puts three-year-old on top of car to protect him

Anvy Technologies CEO Victor Nicolov displays his company’s innovative garbage disposal device, the Sepura. (Courtesy of Anvy Technologies)
Goodbye garburator, this Victoria company has a clean composting solution

Sepura has made Time Magazine’s ‘100 Best Inventions of 2020’ for its hassle-free functioning

People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of COVID-19 cross a street in downtown Vancouver, on Sunday, November 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. reports 17 COVID deaths, 1,933 new cases as hospitalizations surge over the weekend

There are 277 people in hospital, of whom 59 are in ICU or critical care

(Black Press Media files)
B.C. to test emergency alert system on cell phones, TVs, radios on Wednesday

The alert is part of a twice yearly test of the national Alert Ready system

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

Phillip Tallio was just 17 when he was convicted of murder in 1983 (file photo)
Miscarriage of justice before B.C. teen’s 1983 guilty plea in girl’s murder: lawyer

Tallio was 17 when he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of his 22-month-old cousin

This undated photo issued by the University of Oxford shows of vial of coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said Monday Nov. 23, 2020, that late-stage trials showed its coronavirus vaccine was up to 90% effective, giving public health officials hope they may soon have access to a vaccine that is cheaper and easier to distribute than some of its rivals. (University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)
VIDEO: How do the leading COVID vaccines differ? And what does that mean for Canada?

All three of the drug companies are incorporating novel techniques in developing their vaccines

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers at the project site in Kitimat. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared last Thursday (Nov. 19). (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
41 positive COVID-19 cases associated with the LNG Canada site outbreak in Kitimat

Thirty-four of the 41 cases remain active, according to Northern Health

7-year-old Mackenzie Hodge from Penticton sent a hand-written letter to premiere John Horgan asking if she’d be able to see her elf, Ralph under the new coronavirus restrictions. (John Horgan / Twitter)
Elf on the shelf an acceptable house guest, B.C. premier tells Penticton girl

A 7-year-old from Penticton penned a letter asking if she’d be allowed to see her elf this year

Workers arrive at the Lynn Valley Care Centre seniors home, in North Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday, March 14, 2020. It was the site of Canada’s first COVID-19 outbreak in a long-term care facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Rapid tests ‘not a panacea’ for care homes, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

B.C. lacks capacity for daily tests of thousands of workers

(Delta Police Department photo)
Cannabis edibles found in Halloween bag lead B.C. police to illegal lab

Delta police arrested a man and a woman while executing a warrant at a residential property Nov. 20

Most Read