Public Drop-In Session with BC Ferries before FAC Meeting

BC Ferries have announced that they will be holding a public drop-in session next Monday, May 9 before the FAC meeting at the Agi Hall.

This is your opportunity to connect directly with BC Ferries representatives to provide feedback and ask questions about the new 2-ship service, facilities and schedules, and any other ferry-related issue you may have on your mind.

Date: Monday, May 9th, 2022
Time: 12:00pm – 1:15pm (Drop-in session) / 2:00pm – 4:30pm (FAC meeting)
Location: Agi Hall, 465 South Rd., Gabriola

For more information about the drop-in session please contact Darin Guenette, Strategy & Community Engagement, BC Ferries at darin.guenette@bcferries.com.

In light of the fact that COVID has been spreading rapidly on the island, the FAC requests that those who wish to attend wear masks, practice social distancing, and do not join us if you are feeling unwell. You can also attend the FAC meeting online via WebEx – for joining details please email gabriolafac@gmail.com.






Gabriola FAC Meeting May 9

The Gabriola FAC will be having our first in-person meeting with BC Ferries since before COVID. The meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 9 at 2pm at the Agi Hall. In light of the fact that COVID has been spreading rapidly on the island, the FAC requests that those who which to attend wear masks, practice social distancing, and do not join us if you are feeling unwell.

If you are unable to attend this meeting but would like to provide input, please feel free to email the FAC at gabriola.fac@gmail.com with details of your question or concern.

‘Fast Facts’ on the New Ferries

BC Ferries has provided the FAC with the following ‘Fast Facts’ for the new, two-vessel ferry service starting April 12.

Capacity increase between Nanaimo Harbour and Gabriola Island
• Effective April 12, 2022 two Island Class vessels will enter service on the Nanaimo Harbour – Gabriola Island route
• The introduction of the new vessels will result in a 49 per cent vehicle, and over 30 per cent passenger, capacity increase and doubling of sailing frequency at peak times for the route.
• Two-ship service will be in operation from 6:20 am – 5:05 pm each day, and will offer sailings approximately every 35 minutes.
• Waits are still possible on the busiest days of the peak season, with two vessels running twice as frequently, traffic should clear more quickly and sailing waits should be shorter.

Community feedback is reflected in the new schedules
• We heard from the community about the importance of the morning sailing times to support commuters and school children leaving Gabriola.
• The schedule reflects this input with a new 7:05 am departure from Gabriola.
• We also heard about the need for easier loading and unloading of foot passengers and have constructed a new separate foot passenger walkway at the Nanaimo Harbour terminal to support this.
Second vessel will run on a 12-hour day
• The second ship will maintain a 12-hour service day and will operate until its last sailing at 5:05 pm from Descanso Bay.
• Some gaps in sailing times still exist mid-day. These gaps are to allow time for crew breaks which provide time for crew to rest, preventing fatigue and helping maintain the safety of operations.
• The focus is on providing additional service during the typically busiest travel times to provide the greatest benefit to the community. To avoid disrupting established travel patterns, the evening sailing times have been kept close to what is currently in place.
• Service will continue with a single ship from 5:05 pm until the last sailing of the day at 11:00 pm out of Nanaimo Harbour.

Island Class capabilities
Capacity:
• The extra ship will increase capacity for vehicles and provide more sailing opportunities for commercial traffic.
• The higher capacity will reduce the competing needs for deck space between smaller vehicles and larger commercial vehicles.
• More sailing opportunities for commercial and higher capacity will reduce the likelihood and potential impact of sailing waits for all vehicles.
Weather capabilities:
• The Island Class vessels have similar weather handling capabilities as our Spirit and Coastal Class vessels that sail between Vancouver and Vancouver Island.
• The Island Class vessels sailed from the shipyard in Romania to Victoria under their own power and have successfully sailed in challenging weather conditions on other routes for over a year.
• We are confident they can handle the winter weather conditions present on any of our inter-island routes.
Electrification:
• The Island Class are fitted for full electric operation once shore charging infrastructure is available. We continue to work on the long-term plans for full electrification of the vessels.

Readiness at terminals and berths
Terminal:
• A separate foot passenger walkway at Nanaimo Harbour terminal has been constructed to make loading and unloading more efficient.
• Minor updates were completed at both the Nanaimo Harbour and Gabriola Island terminals to support the introduction of the Island Class vessels onto the route.
Berth:
• The second Island Class vessel will be tied up at the Nanaimo Harbour Authority’s Visiting Vessel Pier on Cameron Island when it is not in service.
• We expect the vessel to have minimal impact on nearby residents as lights, generators etc. will not be running while the vessel is at dock.
• We are in direct contact with the strata councils on Cameron Island to communicate our plans and answer any questions or concerns residents may have.
Plans for the Quinsam:
• The start of two-ship service with the new Island Class vessels on Route 19 will enable the Quinsam to enter service on Route 6, April 13, 2022 and keeping the schedule the same.

Island Class 2 Vessel Schedule

New Ferries Begin April 12

BC Ferries has just announced that he two new Island Class vessels will begin service Tuesday April 12.

One of the vessels will provide 18-hours of service. The second vessel will operate during the busiest 12-hour period of the day. According to BC Ferries, this will result in a 49 per cent vehicle, and over 30 per cent passenger, capacity increase and doubling of sailing frequency between 6:20 am and 5:05 pm.

A separate foot passenger walkway has been constructed at the Nanaimo Harbour terminal to support easier loading and unloading of foot passengers.

Edit: There was a typo in the information provided by BC Ferries regarding the scheduling of Dangerous Cargo – it has now been corrected. Sorry for the confusion!

Island Class Ferries – Operational Readiness Drills March 2 – 30

BC Ferries has advised the FAC that the Island Gwawis will be used for Route 19 crews to learn and conduct operational readiness drills over the month of March. Passengers may notice the Gwawis sailing opposite the Quinsam during some of these drills, starting tomorrow, March 2. There may be times when it makes sense as part of these drills for them to load vehicles and people onto the Gwawis and sail as a supplementary sailing, but the timing will only be known as the drills and  training unfold. To clarify, no extra sailings are officially planned and if they occur they are simply a “bonus” for customers who were waiting for a scheduled Quinsam sailing.

Cancelled Afternoon Sailings Sunday, March 13, 2022

The MV Quinsam will be conducting mandatory life raft inflation and exchange on March 13. As a result, a foot passenger only water taxi will be in service in place of the following regular scheduled sailings.

Leave Nanaimo HarbourLeave Descanso Bay (Gabriola Island)
12:00 pm
1:20 pm
12:45 pm
2:00 pm
  • There is no charge for the water taxi during this time.
  • At Nanaimo, the water taxi will depart from the ‘F’ dock, located at the downtown Nanaimo Marina. Directions to the water taxi, will be provided to customers when they arrive at the foot passenger booth in Nanaimo Harbour.
  • At Gabriola, the water taxi on the Descanso Bay side will arrive just beside the ferry terminal.
  • Only customers with a mandatory face covering will be allowed to board the water taxi.

Regular scheduled sailings will resume as of the 2:35 pm departure from Nanaimo Harbour.

Free WiFi at Descanso Bay and Nanaimo Harbour Ferry Terminals

A long standing item has been ticked off the wish list of many Gabriolans.

Last year the BC Government announced that it was providing funding though the Connecting British Columbia program to deliver Wi-Fi service at 14 ferry terminals serving communities from the Southern Gulf Islands to Bella Bella. As of yesterday, the FAC has been advised that this service is now live at both our Gabriola and Nanaimo terminals.

For more information see BC Ferries’ website here.

Island Class Vessel Trials Set for Next Week

BC Ferries has announced that the Island Aurora will supplement the Quinsam next Tuesday to Thursday in preparation for the launch of the the Island Class vessel service starting this spring. BC Ferries has further advised that there is no set schedule for when the Aurora will be in each port, as the crew will need flexibility to pick up loads as it makes sense for their trial efforts. They will be assessing the conditions, new ideas for procedures, etc. What this means for customers is that the Aurora may just show up in dock while the Quinsam is at the other terminal, creating unexpected sailing opportunities.

From the Service Notice:

BC Ferries will trial two-ship service between Nanaimo Harbour and Descanso Bay (Gabriola Island) January 25-27. The Quinsam and Island Aurora will run the trials with plans to make two ferry service a permanent fixture in the spring.


Dock fitting will take place January 24 with trial service starting January 25. The trial period will give crews the chance to monitor travel and loading times and validate the schedule for two-ship service.


During the trial there is no change to scheduled sailing times although customers will have additional sailing opportunities throughout the day as Island Aurora will be running opposite the Quinsam. There may be a reduction in the number of pay parking spaces at Nanaimo Harbour to accommodate the additional crew.

After this trial is complete, BC Ferries will analyse what they’ve learned, and we will then aim to confirm the final schedules they will put in place when two Island Class ships start service in Spring.

BC Ferries Potential Service Disruptions

As you may have heard on the news, BC Ferries is anticipating the potential for sailing disruptions on all routes, and particularly on its minor, inter-island routes over the coming months. Unfortunately, this includes the Gabriola-Nanaimo route. They have provided the following background for communities that may be impacted.

Causes of service disruptions

Service disruptions are possible across the BC Ferries system due to a combination of factors, including:

  • Impact of winter storms that have been affecting vessel operations and staff availability
  • Potential of the highly contagious Omicron variant to impact employee wellness
  • The impact of cold and flu season on employee wellness
  • Staff vacancies created by a global shortage of experienced mariners
  • Unvaccinated shipboard employees being placed on leave without pay by January 24 in accordance with vaccination policies (The remainder of employees are required to be fully vaccinated by February 28)

Contingency plans

BC Ferries has several layers of contingency plans in place to mitigate the risk of service disruptions including:

  • Staffing pools with crew held in reserve
  • Cross-training employees so they can be redeployed from one location to another as required
  • Overtime pay for employees who cover gaps

The combination of factors noted above has the potential to overwhelm all layers of contingency planning and BC Ferries will need to modify service.

Modified service planning

  • If BC Ferries is unable to maintain regular operations, it will modify service, seeking to maintain the maximum amount of service possible for the route
  • While a route may operate on a modified schedule, no route is expected to be suspended completely
  • How service is modified is specific to each route and to the nature of the service disruption
  • Whenever possible, BC Ferries seeks to provide supplemental service (such as by water taxi) during times the ferry would normally be operating

The crewing process

  • Crewing is a complex, logistical task that considers the individual’s qualifications and the number of skilled mariners required for the various roles onboard each vessel, as well as where they live and work
  • Regulations require these positions to be filled with the appropriate crew, or the vessel cannot sail:
    • Large vessels require 30 to 50 crew on each shift, with two shifts daily
    • Smaller vessels like those on the inter-Island routes can require five to 10 crew, also in shifts
  • Even a small number of crew that are unavailable to sail can have a significant impact on service if replacements are challenging to find

These staffing challenges are not unique to BC Ferries:

  • Public health officials now suggest as many as 20 to 30 percent of employees may test positive for COVID because of the more contagious Omicron variant
  • Transportation industries across the country are experiencing similar challenges and disruptions, e.g. the airline industry
  • If a shipboard or terminal employee tests positive for COVID, they are required to be absent from work for a minimum of five-to-10 days, and longer if their symptoms persist

Notification of service disruptions

  • As staff shortages may not be known until an employee calls in sick, it is possible for service disruptions to occur on short notice
  • Where disruptions are likely or anticipated, BC Ferries will provide as much advance notice as possible
  • Customers can also stay up to date in several ways:

BC Ferries COVID Protocols

  • The health and safety of our customers and employees remains BC Ferries’ priority
  • BC Ferries supports the federal and provincial Health Officers’ position that vaccination and other safety protocols that have been put into place are the most effective tools to reduce the risk of COVID-19
  • BC Ferries adheres to Transport Canada’s regulations which are in the public interest and protect broader public health
  • BC Ferries has implemented many enhanced safety measures, including social distancing with plexiglass screens, additional cleaning and sanitization, and a mask wearing policy for employees and customers

Quinsam Returning to Regular Service Wednesday, Nov. 24

Excellent news! The Gabriola FAC has been advised by BC Ferries that regular service on our route will resume on Wednesday, November 24. Recent training efforts have been successful in filling the gap. However BC Ferries did qualify this announcement with the following statement – “We are planning for a full return to service moving forward, however we still have a shortage of crew on this route, which means the situation remains dynamic and we will let you know as quickly as possible if anything changes.”
The FAC is meeting with BC Ferries at 4pm and will share any new information received as a result of that meeting.