BC Ferries Update (Nov. 2022)

On October 27 the Southern Sunshine Coast Ferry Advisory Committee (FAC) held its first public meeting with BC Ferries in over a year. These meetings are supposed to be open to everyone, but it was not advertised broadly, so only members attended (although I managed to be a fly on the wall).

The FAC requested another public meeting, which will be held on Wed. Nov. 23 at the Seaside Centre in Sechelt from 6:30-8:30 pm. More details to come. Please note that nominations will soon be open for appointments to the FAC. If you are interested, the Nov. 23 meeting would be an excellent time to get more information from the FAC members who will be in attendance.

Here is a brief synopsis of points that seemed interesting.

  • The Queen of Surrey will be going for its annual refit from February 22 to March 22, 2023. As usual, the Coquitlam will be our relief vessel.
  • In 2023, the summer sailing schedule on our route will start at spring break (March 27-31), which is earlier than in previous years.
  • BCF has been doing maintenance on the Horseshoe Bay berths (which is part of the reason for ongoing on-time sailing issues). Work on the “dolphins” (for us landlubbers, that’s a piling used as a fender for the ferry to bump against when docking) will finish in early 2023.
  • BCF will pilot a new reservation system on Route 2 (Nanaimo) next year to try and mitigate the pile ups of traffic in Horseshoe Bay.
  • They are also hiring a Community Relations Manager who will do outreach to FACs and communities. I’m not sure how many communities this person is supposed to manage, but I wish the successful applicant the best of luck.
  • BCF has asked MOTI for permission to place washroom blocks along the highway for those unfortunates stuck in lineups outside the ferry terminal. BCF says they do not have authority to provide services outside their property because it’s a MOTI right of way. The Bowen Island FAC is also pressing hard on this issue.
  • A free reservation system for people who have TAP forms (Travel Assistance Program for medical travel) is in the works. The timeline for this keeps sliding and is now described as “maybe January.”
  • The planned renovations of the Langdale terminal (including pedestrian walkway) appear to be on hold indefinitely.
  • Resident priority for our route has been requested many times over the years. This is a policy decision and has been forwarded to MOTI for consideration. However (and this is Donna editorializing here), there are a lot of hairy issues associated with this, like who is a resident? (would seasonal residents count? what about Powell River residents?), how would you prove it? how would you enforce it? and would the priority apply to all sailings or only some? Not to mention the tension between residents who rely on tourism to make a living against those who do not. Do not hold your breath.
  • BCF also reported that commercial traffic on our route is up 20-30% over 2019. Again, I would be interested in further details.
  • BC Ferries submits a “PT6” plan to the Office of the BC Ferries Commissioner, who then determines what fare increases can be approved in order to generate the revenue needed to meet expenses. If you are interested in more details about this, go here for lots of meaty reading.
  • The Northern Sunshine Coast Ferry Advisory Committee has its own Facebook page. Good for Powell River! Perhaps our FAC should follow suit….?

Posted by Donna