Traffic up, reliability down in Spring 2017 Quarterly Report

Every quarter, BC Ferries reports to the BC Ferry Commission on the performance of each route. The latest quarterly report (April to June 2017) confirms what many of us have seen this year – that as traffic has continued to increase, on-time performance has suffered and the number of overloaded sailings has increased significantly.

Spring 2017 saw the Vehicle Capacity Utilisation (the percentage of deck space occupied) rise to 58.3% – up by 4% compared to the same quarter last year, as shown in the graph below. Note that this graph expresses utilisation against the original deck capacity of 70, although BC Ferries now calculates the vessel’s capacity as 64.Slide3As traffic increases however, on-time performance is more difficult to maintain and as this next chart shows, the percentage of “on-time” departures in the quarter plummeted to just 86.1% compared to the past two years, when over 97% of departures left on time.  On-time performance at this low level is more typically seen only in peak summer and this quarter’s performance is the lowest recorded in Spring for the past five years.Slide4One reason for the slip in on-time performance is the number of overloads that have to be managed – which increased in Spring 2017 to almost 10% of all sailings. Each time an overload occurs, the loading process takes longer while crew members squeeze in as many vehicles as possible. The number of sailings reported as overloaded this Spring was up by more than two-thirds compared to Spring 2016 and was almost on a par with the peak summer months last year.  Slide5The full Quarterly Report to the BC Ferry Commissioner can be downloaded here 



Full 2018 schedule now available for Departure Bay / Horseshoe Bay ferries

BC Ferries has now published the full 2018 schedule for ferries between Departure Bay and Horseshoe Bay.

From January 2, departure times change at both ends of the route, with the spring schedule running through to May 16. From May 17 there are further changes in service lasting through to October 8, after which the spring schedule returns. As before, there are extra sailings in peak summer (June 23 to September 3) and at busy weekends throughout the season. Full details can be found at 

This summary of the revised schedule can be downloaded here.Departure Bay – Horseshoe Bay

Bowen Queen gets off to a slow start, but now showing signs of improvement…

The first three days of operation saw delays and some overloads for Bowen Queen this week – but by Friday (always a quieter day on our ferry) the situation was starting to settle down.

Bowen Queen

Bowen Queen

Wednesday’s service was worst hit – with a combination of an unfamiliar vessel, a salmon fishing fleet stretching across Nanaimo Harbour and more commercial vehicles than the Bowen Queen is designed to handle.  All went well until the 7.35am ferry arrived in Nanaimo, to be faced with a line-up of trucks that took up a full 32 minutes before the 8.10 was ready to leave. By then the ferry was already 18 minutes late.

On Wednesday, each turn-round took Bowen Queen an average 4 minutes longer than planned. By Thursday it was down to 3 and Friday’s average was just 2 minutes longer. However, the 8.10am from Nanaimo remains a challenge, with Thursday’s loading taking 26 minutes and 25 minutes on Friday. The planned schedule allows just 15 minutes at this time.

What is clear is that Bowen Queen’s extra turn of speed (14+ knots compared to Quinsam’s 12 knots) makes it possible to recapture some of that lost time – providing the harbour is not congested.  Crossing times of 17 minutes are achievable when a speed of 14 knots can be attained.

Also evident are the supreme efforts of the Crew to manage the unloading and loading and minimise delays to the service. As days pass, it will undoubtedly become slicker and hopefully the on-time performance will improve significantly next week.

Summer ferry challenges : how did they affect you?

This past summer was one of the busiest ever experienced on Route 19 between Nanaimo and Gabriola, and we know that presented some real issues for Gabriolans and visitors.
The Ferry Advisory Committee would like to find out what your summer ferry experiences were like, so please give us some feedback in this 5-minute survey.

The questionnaire can also be completed on paper at the Library if you prefer.

The closing date for responses will be October 31, 2017.

Thank you for completing the survey!  Your opinion is important to us. You are also invited to attend the FAC meeting on November 15th from 3:30 to 6:00 PM at the Arts Council Hall

FAC Chair handing over the reins

John Hodgkins, who has chaired Gabriola FAC since 2012, is stepping down from the role ahead of the forthcoming FAC meeting in November. A new Chair will be elected at that meeting.

For the past two years, John has divided his time between Gabriola and his family home in the UK, and he plans to move back there permanently in 2018.  He will continue to participate in the work of the FAC for the remainder of its current term.

John will continue to oversee the FAC website which he introduced in 2012 “to give the FAC much greater community focus”.   He joined the FAC at a time when the whole of the previous committee had stepped down ‘en bloc’ and there was a clear lack of engagement with the wider community on the island.  “Using the website and social media has brought the work of the FAC much closer to the community, giving its members the confidence that they can properly represent the community’s needs in their dialogue with BC Ferries” he said this week.

John said “Over the past few years I’ve had terrific support from colleagues on the FAC and I’m especially grateful to Steven Earle who agreed to co-chair the committee whenever I’ve been away over the past couple of years”

“The Ferry Advisory Committee is, as the name implies, purely advisory – and although we are nominally appointed by BC Ferries, its role is to ensure that the interests of Gabriolans are communicated to BC Ferries whenever the need arises. If that means calling BC Ferries to account for doing something that has caused problems to the community, then so be it” he said.  “BC Ferries managers have respect for FACs that can present them with factual evidence rather than relying on political inertia and a reluctance to accept change.”

“It’s particularly important for any FAC to gain the confidence of BCF management and to understand the constraints within which the corporation is required to operate – but that doesn’t mean that the FAC cannot challenge their decisions if we have the facts to support that challenge.”

“Having a career in transportation management in both public and private sector taught me that commercial organisations will always set their direction based on the anticipated financial outcome, but they are not always as close to understanding the needs of their customers as they might think.  It’s the job of the FAC to try and convince BCF managers to do things differently, and sometimes that’s no easy task”

“Good luck to the committee in their endeavours!”

All change on Horseshoe Bay/Departure Bay ferry

As part of a major shake-up of ferry services in and out of Horseshoe Bay, BC Ferries has announced new schedules to improve services on the Langdale and Bowen Island Routes. These new schedules will include changes to Route 2, between Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay in Nanaimo.

Starting January 2, a revised schedule is proposed for Route 2, with minor changes to morning sailings and more significant changes to afternoon and evening departures. Initially this schedule runs up to the end of March, but it seems likely that the core service could remain broadly the same through next summer. [Note: schedules for the remainder of 2018 will be published by the end of September]

Here’s what the changes to the schedule will look like. Note that the departure times will no longer be identical from both ends of the route:HSB At our November FAC meeting we will need to consider whether any adjustments should be made to the Gabriola ferry schedule to accommodate connections with the Route 2.

Do you use the ferry to/from Horseshoe Bay? How will these changes affect your journey? Please give us your views using the comment box below.