Powell River residents might not have noticed yet, but a new vessel is in service on BC Ferries route between Powell River and Comox.
Salish Raven has replaced its twin vessel Salish Orca while the Orca is having standard warranty work done that is regularly scheduled within a ship’s first year in service.
The Orca is having its refitting done eight months after it replaced Queen of Burnaby on the Comox-Powell River run in May 2017.
Salsih Raven arrived on January 3 and could be sailing here indefinitely, according to BC Ferries public affairs manager Darin Guenette.
“Because they're identical ships, when the Orca's work is done it might not come back to that route, because the Raven is identical,” said Guenette.
Salish Raven was the last of the new Salish-class vessels put into service in 2017, the third being Salish Eagle. Both the Raven and Eagle were on the Tsawwassen-Southern Gulf Islands route this summer.
Salish Orca is not a ship dedicated to service between Powell River and Vancouver Island, said Guenette.
“The Raven might stay until it's due for a refit, and then maybe the Orca or the Eagle will come up there,” he said. “Powell River will always have a Salish. It just might be a different paint job on the side.”
Meanwhile, BC Ferries has made schedule adjustments on the Powell River-Comox route. The changes apply only to departure times from Comox, but the reason is to address a problem in Powell River.
Effective Saturday, January 13, earlier departure times from Little River come into effect; intended to improve on-time service and mitigate berth conflict between Salish ships and North Island Princess to Texada Island. A few minutes is all that is needed, according to Guenette.
“We've found that if you can just change the schedule a little for the Salish vessel, then you can help prevent the two vessels being at Westview at the same time,” said Guenette.
The new times out of Comox are five minutes earlier than the current schedule and will be at 6:15 am, 9:55 am and 7:10 pm.
By leaving Comox earlier, Salish vessels will coordinate better with new arrival and departure times at Westview ferry terminal that came into effect on December 30, 2018. Those times will not change.
“It gives the ship just five more minutes when they come over to Powell River to unload and load and get out of the way,” said Guenette. “The conflict that's happening is happening only because of a couple of minutes.”
The 3:15 pm sailing from Little River will now leave 10 minutes later at 3:25 pm so supplies can be loaded onto the ferry, but due to a longer layover on that run it will not affect docking for the Texada vessel.
The wait to dock has been an annoyance to Texada residents for years, according to Northern Sunshine Coast Ferry Advisory Committee chair Kim Barton-Bridges.
“It's one of those things that people just grin and bear,” said Barton-Bridges. “Hopefully this will make everyone happier.”
Powell River Regional District Texada director Sandy McCormick said the 7:50 am departure from Texada is the biggest annoyance, and getting stuck waiting sometimes for half an hour for Salish Orca to leave. The delay can affect people trying to connect with the Lower Mainland, coming into work and children getting to school on time, she said.
“It is a real problem,” said McCormick. “By shifting the schedule, it makes a world of difference to our ability on Texada to make the connections and do the things we need to do instead of being a half-hour late. It's a real pain.”