Lately, the chaos at BC Ferries never seems to end.
This summer, cancellations keep coming, leaving people stranded and waiting hours to get on board.
Last week, there were eight cancellations in one day, and even Premier David Eby is talking about it.
“Every Islander knows that the ferries are part of our highway system. It’s not just, as it is for our family, a good way to visit grandma and to come over to the island for a visit,” he told CBC News.
“It’s how people get goods. It’s how people get around. And we know the urgency of ensuring that BC Ferries delivers for British Columbians.”
So with all this known “urgency,” why so many delays?
The biggest blow came just before a busy long weekend when the Coastal Celebration, one of the largest vessels, was pulled from service. The ship was scheduled for maintenance, but unexpected complications delayed its return.
“We do our best to control and plan ahead for our refit schedule,” says BC Ferries spokesperson Karen Johnston. “This was a situation where there were circumstances beyond our control.”
Further mechanical issues with the propulsion system led to more cancelled sailings, adding to the troubles.
And it’s not just the ships facing problems— BC Ferries is also struggling to find enough workers.
While the company has hired 1,200 employees in the past year, that hasn’t been enough to keep things running smoothly. “Staff shortages” have been cited as an ongoing issue.
BC Ferries is focused on retention and training and is working with post-secondary institutions to train and recruit more staff.
In a press release, BC Ferries cited an unexpected number of retirements and difficulty recruiting staff from overseas as reasons for the low staffing levels. But these issues have been long in the making.
Back in 1979, warnings were given about a shortage of certificate holders for marine navigation, but they were not adequately addressed.
BC Ferries relied on recruiting from other organizations instead of investing in training locals.
A retired mariner, Trevor Oram, shared that the company opted for a short-term approach.
“The corporation’s position was that it was such a fabulous place to work that it would just take from the international maritime trade and grab the certificates that were out there floating around but developed by other organizations,” he said.
This has led to current staffing challenges.
Despite the struggles, there is a few glimmers of hope for travellers.
A new foot passenger ferry service, called Hullo, is set to launch between Nanaimo and downtown Vancouver.
With up to seven round-trip sailings daily, this new service aims to provide a convenient and efficient way to travel between the island and the mainland.
If BC Ferries doesn’t shape up, Hullo will likely become a new go-to service for many islanders despite the slightly more expensive fare.
For now, BC Ferries is working to address the delays and ensure that Islanders can continue to rely on this vital transportation system.
As they implement improvements in training, staffing and maintenance, we can hope for smoother and more reliable ferry journeys in the future.
But for the moment, bring a meditation playlist or something to keep you busy because, more than likely, if you’re riding, you’re in for a wait.