Smaller vessels servicing Powell River ferry routes have led to long waits and missed sailings. With discount fares, travellers worry the situation for travelling to and from Powell River may only worsen.
Queen of Burnaby, with its 192-car capacity, which serves between Comox and Powell River, left service for an unexpected repair to a propellor hub on October 14. Repairs complete, the vessel will substitute for Queen of Nanaimo, BC Ferries’ other Burnaby-class ship, for a planned repair. It is expected the Burnaby would return on Friday, November 20. Now, according to information from the recent Northern Sunshine Coast Ferry Advisory Committee meeting held Monday, October 26 on Texada Island, the ferry corporation is looking at delaying its return until Tuesday, November 24.
“There has already has been some trouble with overloads,” said Kim Barton-Bridges, advisory committee chairperson. “BC Ferries is looking at that, but I don’t know how much they can do about it.”
In the interim, the MV Island Sky, with its 125-vehicle capacity, was moved over to the Comox-Powell River route and the MV Bowen Queen, with its 70-car capacity, moved in to cover Earls Cove and Saltery Bay.
Since the move to smaller vessels, there have been numerous reports of cars being left behind at both terminals.
BC Ferries’ 50 per cent off vehicle fares promotion is set to begin Saturday, November 14 and expectations are that it will increase the amount of traffic using the service.
“This could be a little problematic with the vehicle fare reductions,” added Barton-Bridges. “With the smaller vessels people need to be aware that there could be waits and they’ll need to get there earlier.”
Tourism Powell River board director Dawn Adaszynski has called the winter schedule on the Earls Cove/Saltery Bay route “deeply flawed.” In a letter she sent to BC Ferries president and CEO Mike Corrigan, November 2, she requests the ferry corporation look at reinstating the summer schedule temporarily.
“If you are going to reduce the size of the ferry, you need to increase the number of runs to accommodate traffic,” she wrote. “Implementing the summer schedule [with more runs] when the ferry size has been reduced would go a long way to alleviate the frustration felt by your customers.”
During the Southern Sunshine Coast Ferry Advisory meeting held October 27, Mark Collins, BC Ferries’ vice president of strategic planning and community engagement told the committee if communities on the Lower Sunshine Coast wanted runs restored or new ones added between Langdale and Horseshoe Bay then it would be up to the provincial government to the adjust service level to pay for the extra cost.
~with files from the Coast Reporter