BC Ferries president and CEO Mark Collins says the company will not be running as many sailings this summer as it did in 2019, although it still expects to be able to meet overall demand.
Collins made the comments in a July 8 update on summer travel and the impact of COVID-19 on the ferry service.
Local governments on the Sunshine Coast and the Southern Sunshine Coast Ferry Advisory Committee have been pressing Ferries to add more trips to the Langdale-Horseshoe Bay route to meet the anticipated demand from residents, businesses and tourists now that travel within the province is no longer being discouraged.
Although BC Ferries is now running eight round-trips a day on Route 3, with two additional sailings on Fridays and Sundays starting July 10, there have still been frequent overloads and delays.
In a recent letter to BC Ferries, Sechelt councillors pointed out that the Sunshine Coast economy is “heavily reliant on tourism” and reduced capacity on the Langdale route could “limit our community’s recovery.”
“Our vision for Route 3 this summer is simple – provide the same level of service as last summer,” the letter said. “This would include the additional sailings we had last summer and maintaining increased time between sailings to ensure ferries run on time.”
Councillors in Gibsons are also sending BC Ferries a letter, asking the ferry company to “recognize the needs of small businesses on the Coast requiring deliveries of materials, including perishable goods, for their operations.”
In his update, Collins said traffic is beginning to grow again after dropping around 80 per cent in March and April and is expected to continue to increase throughout the summer.
“This summer, we are going to need your help, your patience and your understanding,” Collins said. “While we’re adding sailings as fast as we can, there still will be some sailing limitations this summer as we weren’t able to hire and train summer seasonal staff in March and April due to COVID-19. We are planning for summer service to exceed demand, but we won’t have the same number of sailings as last summer.”
Collins also acknowledged the inconvenience caused by schedule changes, some of which have happened on short notice. Sunshine Coast residents in particular have complained about trouble with rebooking reservations and long waits on hold with customer service.
“Over the past month or so, we’ve revised our schedules more often than normal, as we bring more sailings back into service,” he said. “I know this has impacted some of our customers, but every time we add more sailings, we need to revise the schedules one more time.”
Collins said BC Ferries is putting the bulk of its efforts into brining back service and is working with the province “to examine the impact COVID-19 is having on the ferry system.”
“We need to protect the core of the ferry system and continue to provide safe, reliable service to British Columbians.”