Skip to content

Updated: Evening schedule changes on Route 3 because of crew shortages

The 5:30 p.m. sailing will now leave at 6:35 p.m.
Queen of Surrey
The Queen of Surrey at the Langdale ferry terminal.

The number of sailings won’t change but Route 3’s evening schedule will look different next month.

As of Jan. 28, what is usually the 5:30 p.m. sailing leaving from Horseshoe Bay, will run at 6:35 p.m. – pushing back the evening schedule. BC Ferries announced the change in a service notice Jan. 20

At a Southern Sunshine Coast Ferry Advisory Committee meeting Jan. 17, Peter Simpson, BC Ferries’ director of fleet operational strategy, warned of the possibility of such a schedule change after “significant delays” in Departure Bay last week related to crew shortages. Those shortages aren’t going away, he said.

Because of crew shortages in Nanaimo (Departure Bay), BC Ferries is pulling the Queen of Cowichan’s “L run” service on Route 3. The Queen of Cowichan usually comes off the Nanaimo route to pick up commuters in Horseshoe Bay at 5:30 p.m., just an hour after the Queen of Surrey has left, brings them to the Coast, and finishes the evening on Route 3.

“We would be looking to keep the Queen of Surrey on Route 3 without it pulling over to the Route 2 service, and the Cowichan, if it is sailing, would have to stay part-time on Route 2,” Simpson explained at the meeting.

So the Queen of Surrey will leave Horseshoe Bay at 4:20 p.m. and take its usual two-hour round trip.

Ferry advisory committee chair Diana Mumford stressed to Simpson the importance of the 5:30 p.m. sailing for commuters, given how late the next run would sail. “That's a huge issue for people that live on the Coast and have young children. They will not see them because by the time they get home, they will be in bed.”

Simpson acknowledged the importance of the sailing and the effort that went into putting it in place several years ago. He stressed that the measures were temporary and that the alternative was not sailing at all.

The schedule modifications are to allow BC Ferries to reallocate engineering resources to provide Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay reliable service, BC Ferries told Coast Reporter in an email. Also, over the coming month, the ferry service is working on training to fill the crewing gaps.

Contributing factors to the service interruptions are, “Omicron variant's potential to impact employee wellness, regular cold and flu season, severe winter storms, vaccination policies that have reduced crew availability and the global shortage of professional mariners making it difficult to hire replacement staff,” BC Ferries shared.

The schedule changes will also affect the Earls Cove-Saltery Bay and Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay routes.