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Hundreds of Route 3 passengers faced multiple sailing cancellations amid staffing issues

Two round-trip sailings were cancelled on Feb. 6
BC Ferries route 3

Two back-to-back roundtrip sailings between Horseshoe Bay and the Sunshine Coast were cancelled on Sunday, Feb. 6, leaving hundreds of passengers waiting with little information. 

The last sailing to leave before the cancellations was the 8:40 a.m. from Langdale, but an 8:30 a.m. service notice about the changes wasn’t received by customers until 4:25 p.m. because BC Ferries’ external vendor was doing server maintenance, the company said.

The four sailings – 10:50 a.m. from Langdale, 11:55 a.m. from Horseshoe Bay, 1:05 p.m. from Langdale and the 2:10 p.m. from Horseshoe Bay – were cancelled because Route 3 was short one crew member from the engineering department, which is a “critical position,” BC Ferries’ executive director of public affairs Deborah Marshall said in an email on Feb. 7. A full crew aboard the Queen of Surrey is usually 34 members, and BC Ferries must meet a specific number of crew members for safety reasons and to comply with Transport Canada regulations.. 

In response, BC Ferries deployed a complimentary 38-passenger water taxi, which made two round trips. Any reservation fees would have been automatically refunded, Marshall said. Travel reverted to a standby basis.

The next available sailing was the 3:15 p.m. departing Langdale and the 4:20 p.m. departure from Horseshoe Bay. 

“We certainly apologize to our customers for any inconvenience this situation may have caused,” Marshall said.  

“I think the biggest frustration is there was no communication with ferry users,” the Southern Sunshine Coast Ferry Advisory Committee (FAC) chair Diana Mumford, told Coast Reporter on Feb. 7. “Getting the notice after the problem has been resolved seems kind of pointless.” 

She said the southern Gulf islands also had service notices that were significantly delayed on Sunday, adding that the FAC will likely have conversations with BC Ferries about a communications back-up plan.

The latest service interruption follows ongoing crew shortages on a number of BC Ferries routes. The company issued a media advisory on Jan. 10 to announce it was anticipating unplanned service disruptions on all routes over the coming months, because of a combination of factors including the Omicron variant and global shortage of professional mariners. Passengers were reminded to look for the most up-to-date sailing information on BC Ferries’ website or on Twitter.

“It’s just a perfect storm, but not a good one for ferry users to be in,” Mumford said. 

On Tuesday, Feb. 8, the Queen of Surrey is scheduled to depart from Langdale at approximately 3 p.m. for annual maintenance in Richmond until April 12, Mumford said. The route will be covered by the Queen of Coquitlam starting at 3:15 p.m. Since the two vessels are sister ships, Mumford said the scheduled refit shouldn’t affect capacity or performance.

After a temporary schedule change was announced for Route 3, changing the evening sailings, Mumford said it will be nice to get full service back. The regular schedule is anticipated to resume after February.