A recurring oil leak in Queen of Burnaby’s propellor seals is sending the ship for repairs and causing BC Ferries to scramble to cover ferry traffic on Powell River area runs during some of the busiest travel days of the calendar year.
Texada Island is hosting its annual Diversity Festival July 22-25 which brings more than 1,000 visitors to the island each year, so the repair comes at a tough time. Queen of Burnaby, which runs between Powell River and Comox, is expected to go into a North Vancouver dry-dock facility on Saturday, July 23, causing the ferry corporation to jostle its vessels.
“Obviously, it’s a bad situation to have the Burnaby go out in the middle of summer on a big festival weekend, but we’ve come up with a workable solution,” said City of Powell River councillor and Northern Sunshine Coast Ferry Advisory Committee (FAC) member Karen Skadsheim.
BC Ferries held a conference call with the FAC on Monday, July 18, to discuss potential solutions. Because the ferry is going out of service on the weekend, travelling to the festival will not be a problem. It is getting people off the island that may present a challenge, said Skadsheim.
This repair, the third one for the same leak, is expected to take about a week to complete and will move ships and service around in the interim, said Mark Collins, BC Ferries vice president of strategic planning and community engagement.
“The ship has oil leaking into the water and we have to bring it to dry dock as soon as we can for repairs,” said Collins. He added that last year the ferry corporation replaced the kind of oil it uses in the Burnaby with a more environmentally acceptable lubricant.
“But even using that doesn’t relieve us of our obligation to go to dry dock to fix it,” he said. “The Burnaby should go to its retirement right now, but we’re going to do the best we can to fix it.”
The Burnaby is 51 years old and scheduled to be replaced by the MV Salish Orca early in 2017.
Collins said the ferry corporation is bringing in more experts to solve the problem.
“We’re trying everything we can to do a comprehensive repair,” said Collins. “We have no wish to go through this again, but we also have to be realistic.”
MV Island Sky will come off of route seven, between Saltery Bay and Earls Cove, and serve as the Burnaby’s replacement during the service interruption. Both vessels are scheduled to resume regular service on Friday, July 29.
In the meantime, Island Sky will provide dedicated service between Comox and Powell River, and Powell River and Texada Island. Schedules are tentative, but BC Ferries has said the first trip from Comox at 5:35 am will stop at Blubber Bay on Texada.
A 40-passenger water-taxi service to Texada is arranged and travel to the island during the service interruption is free of charge. Reservations, which are also free, are recommended. BC Ferries is providing land-taxi vouchers to those on the water taxi. A 15-passenger bus will help shuttle people on Texada to the water taxi located at Van Anda.
The Texada ferry, MV North Island Princess, and the Denman Island standby vessel, MV Quinitsa, will shuttle traffic back and forth between Saltery Bay and Earls Cove.
According to Collins, all of the recent backups for North Island Princess, including a generator and a tugboat escort, will be on standby in case the ship encounters problems, such as it did last January when it was called to perform similar duties.
North Island Princess will have its first run at 5:15 am from Saltery Bay and provide seven roundtrips throughout the day, with an extra roundtrip around midnight on Sunday and Thursday. Collins added that the early morning run will help businesses and the added frequency of runs midday will help accommodate summer tourism traffic.
“What we’re trying to do is put in as many positives as we can,” said Collins. “We admit that this is a overall reduction in service and will have an impact on the community. We’re just putting everything out there to mitigate the impact.”
Quinitsa is currently scheduled to perform three roundtrips per day from mid-morning to early evening. Collins said BC Ferries is currently training the Quinitsa crew to add more frequent trips. He added that the Quinitsa is the preferred vessel for commercial vehicles as loading is easier.
According to the FAC, both vessels will be home-ported in Saltery Bay.