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Lack of staff leads to more BC Ferries cancellations

The Coastal Celebration vessel is pictured. (BC Ferries) The Coastal Celebration vessel is pictured. (BC Ferries)
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BC Ferries cancelled several sailings because of a lack of crew Saturday, including two trips between Greater Victoria and the Lower Mainland.

The provincial ferry operator announced the cancellations late Friday afternoon. The cancelled sailings included Saturday's 8 a.m. departure from the Swartz Bay terminal on Vancouver Island and the return trip departing Tsawwassen terminal on the mainland at 10 a.m.

Also cancelled were several morning sailings between Swartz Bay and the Southern Gulf Islands aboard the Salish Raven.

As a result of those cancellations, the Salish Heron operated a modified schedule Saturday, details of which can be found on the BC Ferries website

The company advised travellers between the Island and the Lower Mainland to consider the Duke Point–Tsawwassen route as an alternative, and said its customer service team would contact customers with bookings on the cancelled Swartz Bay–Tsawwassen sailings to let them know if there is space available on an alternate sailing or if their booking must be cancelled.

"In the case of a cancellation, we will refund fees and/or fares," BC Ferries said.

The ferry operator saw almost 700 sailing cancellations between April and November of last year because of staff shortages, and a recent report to the independent regulator that oversees BC Ferries operations highlighted worker retention as a key problem. 

Last month, the provincial government announced it was providing $500 million to BC Ferries to prevent fare hikes in excess of 10 per cent per year, which would have been required to keep up with rising costs. 

At the time, Dan Kimmerly, president of the Ships Officers' Component with the BC Ferry and Marine Workers Union, expressed a hope that the funding would be "put into the development of employees" to improve BC Ferries competitiveness as a workplace and attract new staff.

"We require a specific number of crew members on board the vessel to ensure the safety of our passengers in the unlikely event of an emergency and to comply with Transport Canada regulations," the company said in its cancellation announcements Friday.

"We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconvenience you may experience as a result of these cancellations." 

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