VICTORIA -- BC Ferries is considering making changes to its Southern Gulf Islands routes next year, as new vessels join the company's fleet.

The ferry operator is currently seeking feedback on potential schedule changes in two planned phases.

The first phase asks people to provide their feedback and suggestions on ferry scheduling until Mid-March. After that, BC Ferries plans to develop new schedule proposals.

Phase two will then kick off in April, when BC Ferries releases its schedule proposals. Community members will then be asked to weigh in on the schedule changes once again.

Once the second round of feedback is collected, BC Ferries will finalize its new Southern Gulf Islands schedule, based on input collected from the community. The final schedule is expected to be released by September.

“The Southern Gulf Islands are growing and changing, and working towards pandemic recovery,” said BC Ferries CEO and president, Mark Collins, in a release Wednesday.

“We want to better understand how things are changing for island communities and support their growth and recovery,” he said.

The Southern Gulf Islands routes connect five separate islands with Vancouver Island and Vancouver. The routes service Salt Spring Island, Saturna Island, Pender Island, Mayne Island and Galiano Island.

“The Southern Gulf Islands routes are complex and interconnected, and changes to one schedule can mean a change to all schedules,” said Collins.

“Customers rely on the ferry for a variety of travel needs, and these needs fluctuate and change by season. It’s important we carefully consider all needs for all islands and all seasons when looking to enhance schedules,” he said.

Feedback on the schedule proposals, and further details on the project, can be found on the BC Ferries website here