Modified Ferry Schedule – Frequently Asked Questions

Update as of Nov. 22 – The FAC continues to hear reports of difficulties finding the location of the water taxi in Nanaimo. Please scroll down to below the FAQ for a couple of maps to help you.

Update as of Nov. 19 – The FAC met again with BC Ferries this afternoon and received further updates which have been added to the table below in bold.

This afternoon the Gabriola FAC met with BC Ferries and received updates as well as answers to many of the questions and concerns raised by the community.

Most of you are probably already aware of some of the highlights such as increased frequency of water taxis in the morning and the ability to park at the Port Theatre when leaving your vehicle in town and submit your parking receipts for reimbursement.

The detailed FAQ provided by BC Ferries is reproduced below:

Issue/QuestionResponse
Why are service disruptions occurring on this route?The service disruptions on the Nanaimo Harbour – Gabriola Island route result from a combination of the short-term impact of BC Ferries’ mandatory vaccination policy and crewing shortages being experienced by the marine industry around the globe.
 
The implementation of a mandatory vaccination policy that aligns with Transport Canada’s new Interim Order No. 7 has meant that unvaccinated and undeclared employees are unable to board BC Ferries vessels. This in combination with a limited number of trained and qualified crew to pull from has created a crew shortage that is limiting our ability to operate the vessel on its regular schedule.
 
https://tc.canada.ca/en/ministerial-orders-interim-orders-directives-directions-response-letters/interim-order-no-7-respecting-passenger-vessel-restrictions-due-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19
How long will this service disruption last?The modified schedule will be in place on the Nanaimo Harbour – Gabriola Island route at least until the end of the day November 23 (this is not a fixed date).
 
This is a fluid situation and we are doing everything we can to address the shortage of crew on this route. We will continue to keep the community updated.
What is BCF doing to resolve the issue?BC Ferries is working closely with the BC Ferry & Marine Workers’ Union and is actively reaching out to onboard employees who have yet to report to ensure they understand the requirements and encourage them to submit their vaccination status attestations and comply as soon as possible.
 
In addition, we continue to work on sourcing crew members to staff this route. We know this is a frustrating and challenging situation for the community and we are exploring all available avenues to return service to normal.   

We are training crew to create additional resources that can be deployed onto the ship (cross-training ship and terminal crew).

How long will training take? – We are compressing training windows to get crew on to the ship as soon as possible. 8 days being compressed for 3-4 days.

If employees are on leave without pay is the position considered vacant and could be filled? Will filling the positions be temporary? We won’t post against those jobs until we are able to work further with the Union. But in the meantime someone will be filling the roles as required.
Can BCF redeploy a different vessel to solve crewing issue? Is a split shift an option?Deploying a different vessel would not solve the challenges related to crew shortages, and could create knock-on impacts to other areas of the system.
 
The modified schedule is designed to provide regular ferry service across the typically busiest times of day. Supplementing with water taxi outside of those times.  A split shift is likely to create overload situations for vehicle traffic with a mid-day gap, placing additional strain on available sailing times.
 
Further feedback from FAC: Can we consider a split shift to give space in the middle of day and more service early/later? We can pass this request on for consideration. The decision to move to a split shift requires involvement and approval of the Union as well as BC Ferries.
Will BCF reimburse customers for pay parking or organize for complimentary parking nearby?Yes. We will reimburse customers for paid parking at nearby parkades and lots. Customers simply need to keep their receipts and send them in to BC Ferries at:
 
Email: customer.relations@bcferries.com
Phone: 1-888-223-3779
Mail: BC Ferries
Attn: Customer Relations
Suite 500-1321 Blanshard Street
Victoria, BC V8W 0B7
 
The Port Theatre parkade offers parking close to the Nanaimo Harbour ferry terminal.
Is it possible to contract a larger water taxi?We have confirmed an additional six-person water taxi for the morning between 05:15 and 07:30 Monday to Friday. Taxis will run in shuttle mode from opposite sides providing service approximately every 10 minutes during the busy morning sailings.
 
We will continue to monitor the situation over the coming days.

We have found an even larger water taxi (12 ppl) for the mornings Monday – Friday in addition to the 10 person taxi.

Are we keeping track of how full the taxis are and how many left behind? We are now tracking this. The person on the dock call to the booth to report number on the taxi and anyone waiting. If anyone is waiting they will enter shuttle mode.
Can we shuttle in AM to ensure commuters are able to travel as easily and quickly as possible during disruptions?The water taxi did go into shuttle mode this morning (November 18) but it was not moving enough people. We have sourced an additional water taxi and both boats will work in shuttle mode from 05:15 to 07:30 Monday to Friday, providing service approximately every 10 minutes.   
 
Further feedback from FAC: If taxi is waiting to fill up with 10 people on the Nanaimo Harbour side before transiting back to Gabriola this will create unnecessary delays in shuttle mode since the majority of traffic moves from Gabriola to Nanaimo Harbour in the mornings. BCF will pass this feedback on to operational staff.

Did not hear anything on the water taxi service this morning. Sounds as if things ran smoothly.

May need to make high school aware of modified service so they don’t keep kids late for activities. We will follow up.

Water taxi can accommodate bicycles.
Can customers call the water taxi directly for pick up?Customers cannot call the water taxi directly but we are happy to help with this. Terminal staff are situated at the water taxi docks  on both the Nanaimo Harbour and Gabriola side during operation and are able to provide information, answer questions and trigger shuttle mode when people are waiting.
Can a map be provided to customers at the Nanaimo Harbour ticket booth to show where to go for water taxi service?Sandwich board signs are being created to provide easy way-finding for customers. These should be installed in the next day or two.
 
Further feedback from FAC: Dock F is a few minutes walk from Nanaimo Harbour terminal and is not easy to find. There are safety concerns with kids trying to find the dock in the dark and more needs to be done to ensure safe wayfinding. BC Ferries will look to put something in place sooner than the signs and report back at the next meeting.
 
Is it possible to have temporary shelter erected at the dock to provide comfort for waiting customers? BC Ferries will take this feedback away and report back at the next meeting. Have call into Nanaimo Port Authority to see if we can erect tent to keep folks dry at the dock. Umbrellas are also an idea for helping to keep ppl more comfortable.

Signage is going up as we speak to help guide people down to the dock and we will work on getting a map to the booth today.

We were getting feedback that boarding passes were inconvenient for folks, so we moved to a first-come-first-serve at the water taxi dock. We are not charging for passage.
What time do people need to arrive to catch the water taxi, i.e. is there a cut-off time?There is no cut-off time for the water taxi as long as customers arrive prior to sailing time.
Is there communication between the ticket booth and the water taxi so the booth can let the taxi know when people are on their way down if it’s getting close to departure time?
There is communication between the booth and staff on water taxi dock, and the taxi will hold if customers are making their way from the booth to the dock close to departure time.
Will the taxi go into shuttle mode in the evening if people are waiting?Yes. Terminal staff are situated at the water taxi dock on both the Nanaimo Harbour and Gabriola side during operation and are able to trigger shuttle mode when people are waiting.
 
BCF will monitor numbers and if there is an increase in capacity in the evening we can look to add another taxi.
How will the taxi know to go into shuttle mode if people begin to gather after the taxi has left?Terminal staff are situated at the water taxi dock on both the Nanaimo Harbour and Gabriola side during operation and are able to trigger shuttle mode when people are waiting.
Will commercial deliveries to the Island be impacted by this disruption?We are not aware of any impacts at this time to commercial traffic at this time, but this is something we will monitor closely. We encourage the FAC to let us know if they hear of any disruptions or concerns related to commercial goods and services.
 
Further feedback from FAC: There may be impact to construction staff and equipment who are not able to come over as early as usual.
 
Stores and restaurants who rely on early morning deliveries have also had to adjust staff schedules to accept deliveries later than normal.

Sounds like the grocery store is missing early morning deliveries (5am), arrives later in morning instead of night before impacting ability to staff/stock.

BCEHS is working with Harbour Patrol Boat and helicopter to supplement BCF service in light of disruptions. Challenges to using Harbour Patrol Boat as supplemental service, however feeling well prepared to get across water if/as needed.

RCMP also use Harbour Patrol Boat for after-hours needs. Will make adjustments/assessments as needs arise.
Could the route operate normally if the Nanaimo office allowed unvaccinated crew to take rapid COVID tests? Is this being done on other routes?
 
What crew is this route short on, e.g. deckhands? Are we generally short-staffed? Is it that staff are under-vaccinated, won’t attest?
BC Ferries’ mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination Policy aligns with Transport Canada’s new Interim Order No. 7 and applies to all employees at BC Ferries regardless of route or position.
 
Transport Canada regulations require all ship-board employees to attest to having at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in order board the vessel. Any ship-based employee who is partially vaccinated (that is, they have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination) is required to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test before beginning their shift on a vessel.
 
The service disruptions on this route are a short-term impact of the BC Ferries mandatory vaccination policy. In line with other organizations, approximately 1.6 per cent of employees have indicated they are unvaccinated. A small number of employees are seeking accommodations and these cases are currently being reviewed. The Nanaimo Harbour – Gabriola route is the only route affected by a crew shortage at this time.
 
We are not able to disclose the details of specific staff positions or vaccination status for privacy reasons.
How will we handle special-case scenarios, i.e. people returning home after medical treatment who are unable to take the water taxi?We are happy to accommodate these passengers with priority loading at the terminal. Customers simply need to identify themselves to the terminal booth attendant when they arrive.
 
Those customers connecting through the Horseshoe Bay – Departure Bay or Tsawwassen – Duke Point routes, can also take advantage of Medical Assured Loading (more info here: https://www.bcferries.com/book-sailings/medical-assured-loading) to secure their travel from the Mainland to Nanaimo.

Customers can reach out to Customer Care to arrange special case situations, e.g. where hotels may be necessary etc.

Email: customer.relations@bcferries.com
Phone: 1-888-223-3779
Mail: BC Ferries
Attn: Customer Relations
Suite 500-1321 Blanshard Street
Victoria, BC V8W 0B7

Water taxi is not easily accessible for seniors and those with mobility concerns. These people will be disproportionately impacted by the service disruption.
How will these changes impact the minimum contract service levels in the Coastal Ferry Services Contract?We are working with the Province of BC to identify and address any impact to minimum service levels this disruption may have.
How will the regularly scheduled Dangerous Goods sailings on Wednesday be handled?We are in the process of figuring this out and will update the FAC on the plans once they are established. We recognize the impact DG sailings could have on the modified service and are working to mitigate these.

We should have a better update on Monday re: DG sailings and return to regular service.
Will the 07:35am sailings on Sunday be cancelled as they sometimes are?No. We will not cancel regularly scheduled sailings as we recognize the impact this will have on the modified service.
How will we consider the impact of modified service on emergency services and businesses?We will reach out to emergency services and the Gabriola Island Chamber of Commerce to create a direct line of communication for these organizations to provide feedback and stay informed.

Fire? Only time they may use ferry is if they are assisting BCEHS. Will likely not be requiring transportation off-island. What about getting off-island fire support onto Gabriola? We will extend invitation.
Will the water taxi make an additional trip if it is overloaded for its last run at 11pm?Yes. The taxi would complete an additional run to ensure all customers get home at the end of the day.
Will water taxis have weather limitations like the Quinsam?Yes. The water taxis will likely have higher weather limitations than the Quinsam and could be cancelled if weather is bad.

What happens if the wind comes up and taxis can’t sail in the evening? We would need to support this through our Customer Care team if it happened. Could we put together a plan B in case of cancellation of water taxi so that we could support this situation if it happened? Particularly important for kids who may be stuck without parents on the Nanaimo side.

BCF should consider as much advance warning that weather cancellations could happen so that people can make an informed choice. Advance warning that possibilities exist.

In an emergency situation, e.g. Island is without power we would find a way to make it happen to support resolution.
Route 19 Service Disruption – Community Questions & Concerns
November 18, 2021

3 thoughts on “Modified Ferry Schedule – Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Is it possible to push for Friday evening ferry run that lines up with 5-6 pm ferries from the mainland? There are many Gabriola property owners and visitors that travel regularly from the mainland that can no longer access the island and contribute to the local economy. Naturally this is more of a concern for full time residents, but I wanted to share a “part timer’s” perspective as well.
    Thank you so much for the great work you do. It must feel very David and Goliath at times!

  2. Why are we the only island affected by this? 1.8% is less than 1 leg of a person. How can this %unvaccinated be impacting seven runs of the service? This makes absolutely no sense?

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