BC Ferries favours the two-ship option to replace Quinsam by 2022

BC Ferries has today issued a news release indicating that that they have invited  Expressions of Interest construction of of four new Island Class (M47) vessels, including two for the Gabriola route

This RFEOI is partially linked to the engagement/survey process carried out over the past 10 days, including the visits to Gabriola and Quadra this Monday and Tuesday.  Although the survey seeking public preference of either ‘2 x Island Class or 1 x Shuttle100’ only ended today, BC Ferries says they have received sufficient internal and external indications to now expect to replace Route 19 and 23 vessels by 2022 each with two Island Class (47 vehicle) vessels.Exterior-20172707-649x225

BC Ferries cautions that these plans still require approval from their Board and from the Ferry Commissioner.  Board members and the Commissioner have been kept informed as BCF has been conducting analysis of these ideas.

It can be seen in the release that there is still another step (Request for Pre-Qualifications) to undertake even prior to BCF issuing an actual Request for Proposals, which is the step that secures a shipyard to build these vessels. BC Ferries will be opening the RFP to all shipyards within BC, across Canada and internationally… and even though two Island Class vessels are already being built in Europe, these shipyards will still have to bid if they wish to compete for the new contract as BCF owns the design and the new contract will be to build to the existing design, with the goal to award contracts by the end of 2018.

The full media release from BC Ferries can be downloaded here.  For more information about the new Island Class ferries, please visit the BC Ferries website

BC Ferries wants to hear from you.

BC Ferries wants to hear from you. The question they want answered is: When the Quinsam is replaced, would you prefer one larger vessel that provides similar sailing frequency as the current service, or two smaller vessels with increased sailing frequency?


To receive your feedback, they are hosting a  drop-in information session Monday, July 23 from 3:00 – 5:00 pm at the Gabriola Arts & Heritage Centre. Can’t make that date? There is an online survey at: https://www.bcferries.com/about/projects/routes-19-23.html. Please take a few minutes to fill it out. You have from today until July 26th.


2.9% Fuel Rebate to end on June 27

BC Ferries today announced that due to current world fuel market conditions, the
company will remove the fuel rebates currently in place on June 27, 2018. BC Ferries closely monitors the cost of fuel and from time to time applies a rebate or surcharge under a regulatory process that is independent of tariffs.

BC Ferries uses a fuel rebate/surcharge mechanism to manage volatility in the price of fuel. When fuel prices are lower, BC Ferries passes lower fuel prices on to customers through a fuel rebate. When fuel prices are higher, BC Ferries charges a fuel surcharge specifically designed to cover the additional cost of fuel.  The company does not benefit financially from the mechanism, as income raised from surcharges goes into a regulated Fuel Deferral Account,  which is then drawn down to pay for rebates when the price of fuel falls.

Fuel rebates of 2.9 per cent for the major and minor routes and 1.9 per cent for the northern routes have been in place since the spring of 2016. Since that time, the price of fuel has progressively risen, but with government intervention the rebates remained in place, resulting in a $13 million deficit in the Fuel Deferral Account by March 2018.

This deficit was zeroed in April by agreement with the Provincial government, but the ongoing increases in fuel prices mean the fuel rebate is now being removed. For Gabriolans, the net effect will be a 30 cent increase in round-trip passenger fares and a 70 cent increase on the cost of a round-trip vehicle fare. Fare changes for experience card users will be proportionately less.


Shaping the future look of our ferry terminals (updated May 16, 2018)

TDP Poster

For details and draft concepts of the terminal development plans follow these links:

Between now and May 30,  you can provide feedback to BC Ferries by completing the short survey at the link below. You can also send your feedback by email to tdpinfo@bcferries.com.

Follow this link to complete the BC Ferries survey and submit your comments on either plan.

Easter’s busiest ferries

It’s a holiday weekend once more and some ferries will be busier than usual. Last year’s busiest ferries are shown in black and red in the chart below – and we expect this year to be busier than ever, with ferry traffic up another 5% since 2017.

Don’t forget, though, that the 1.50pm ferry from Gabriola and 2.25 from Nanaimo will be back this year on Easter Saturday and Sunday. easterA printable copy of this chart can be found here 

Terminal Development Planning

On February 15th the Ferry Advisory Committee met with BC Ferries’ Terminal Development managers to discuss the planned renewal of the ferry berths and the opportunities for improving ferry-related infrastructure in both Nanaimo and Gabriola as part of a structured Terminal Development Plan. FAC chair Steven Earle described the meeting as positive and productive, and expressed optimism that BC Ferries is committed to some significant changes that will improve both safety and functionality at both ends of the route.

BC Ferries also presented an overview of some of the preliminary ideas that could be considered for the berths, waiting rooms, parking, passenger drop-off, bus, pedestrian and cycling access, and the vehicle holding facilities on both sides. Construction of the new ferry berths is scheduled to take place in 2021.

The Terminal Development Plan (TDP) will set out a long term vision of how the Nanaimo and Gabriola terminals should develop over time. The TDP will provide the framework for the phased implementation of strategies, actions and projects over the next 25 years and will therefore need to accommodate measures for the planned replacement of the MV Quinsam within the next 10 years.

BC Ferries outlined the nature of the public consultation process that is proposed over the coming 12 months.  As with similar projects elsewhere, delivering a final Terminal Development Plan is a six-stage process, with community engagement at several points along the way.   Currently, BC Ferries is at the pre-planning stage which gathers input from government agencies and key stakeholders (including the FAC) on some of the key issues and opportunities that the TDP should address. tdp-process-phases-2Once the pre-planning stage is complete, an initial report is produced and, with input from the local community, the key issues and opportunities are identified. We anticipate that the first public meeting on the terminal development process will be held on Gabriola in May or June of this year.

Similar meetings were held on Denman and Hornby Islands last fall, and an example of the public consultation document for the Denman West and Hornby Island terminals can be found here.

Concerns that were raised by the FAC in our meeting regarding the Nanaimo and Gabriola terminals are summarized here and we invite Gabriola residents and businesses to submit comments and suggestions via the Have Your Say page on this website ahead of the formal consultation process.

Summer 2017 : an operational tale of woe

BC Ferries’ quarterly operations report for July-September 2017 reveals just how much the extra vehicle traffic on our ferry last summer impacted on the quality of service provided.

Compared to the same period last year, our ferry carried 6,000 extra vehicles and more than 13,000 extra passengers, making Summer 2017 the busiest since 2010 – despite the fact that we now have two less departures each day.  According to BC Ferries’ statistics, vehicle occupancy reached 70% for the first time ever – though this measure uses BCF’s new calculation of vehicle space – but even against Quinsam’s “old” capacity of 70 AEQs, this equates to 63% of deck space used – the highest quarterly average ever recorded on the route.

But, as we found out, this extra traffic led to more delays and more overloads. Now we can see just how bad things were. As the first chart shows, on-time performance slumped to the lowest ever recorded – with just 76.9% of sailings leaving within ten minutes of scheduled time. That’s even worse than we saw in summer 2014, when our ferry service was reduced and the initial schedule was acknowledged as “unworkable” by BC Ferries. ontimeSummer 2017 also saw a huge rise in the number of overloads – increasing by a staggering 50% since last summer, with 15.5% of all sailings reported as overloaded. That’s the equivalent of 30 overloads every week, the majority of which occurred on weekdays, often over several consecutive departures.pverloadsThe full quarterly report can be downloaded here from the Ferry Commission’s website.

Ferries feeling the squeeze

Twice a year, Ferry Advisory Committees receive a mountain of data from BC Ferries, detailing the volume of traffic on each ferry sailing over the preceding six months. On Gabriola, we use that data to update our Best Times to Travel guide on the FAC website. But the data also reveals just how much busier our ferries have become and enables us to look back at what’s changed since 2012, the year in which the plans for cutting back our ferry service were being hatched by government. Those cuts finally took effect in April 2014.

Back in 2012, almost a third of our ferry sailings to and from Gabriola fell below the 20% occupancy level that placed them into the “at risk” category in the mind of government. Even during July – always one of the busiest month of the year – one in four of our ferries fell below the 20% threshold and only one in ten actually departed full.

Oh, how things have changed. The FAC recently compared ferry usage in July 2017 on a like-for-like basis with traffic levels five years ago.  The growing pressure on our daytime ferry service can be all too clearly seen on these charts. The first two charts show the change in traffic volume on ferries leaving Gabriola in 2012 and 2017. July from Gabriola july keyThis summer, just one in eight ferries sailed with less than 20% occupancy (most of those were during the late evening) but no less than 1 in every 4 departures is now full or over-subscribed, resulting in long delays and missed appointments. This July, it was virtually impossible to find space on a ferry leaving Gabriola any time between 7am and 3pm on weekdays. A similar situation was emerging on ferries leaving Nanaimo between 1.30pm and 6.30pm as the following charts show:July from Nanaimo
Copies of the charts shown above, together with equivalents for January, May and October, can be downloaded here

Tuesdays and Thursdays are, as always, the busiest days but now the squeeze is hitting other days too, and often lasting throughout the day. Weekends have become noticeably busier too – not just in summer, but for much of the year. Thankfully, BC Ferries has agreed to reinstate the early afternoon sailings on busy weekends following the FAC’s intervention last year, but even Sunday morning ferries are now close to capacity leaving Gabriola – just one more sign of our growing visitor numbers.

We have also seen a progressive increase in the volume of commercial traffic on our ferry to and from Gabriola. In the past few years the number of large trucks arriving from Nanaimo each weekday between 7 and 10am has almost trebled. Most are making deliveries to Gabriola then leaving the island again between 10 and 3 – adding yet more pressure to those same overloaded ferries. We need to encourage local businesses to reschedule their deliveries to times and days when the ferry is less busy and the long waits in line-ups can be avoided.

Of course, the FAC recognises that many Gabriolans need to plan their trips to town midweek, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. However, given the pressure on our ferry last summer, the potential for our government’s recently announced fare incentives focussing yet more traffic onto those same over-subscribed ferries should be a concern to us all. How long must we wait for a solution to this problem?

There is no simple solution of course. A larger ferry would help, but that’s still years away. There’s no slack in Quinsam’s schedule, so extra daytime sailings are out. In their recent letter to Minister Trevena, the FAC drew attention to its concerns and urged government to look seriously at measures that will ensure we have adequate ferry capacity in 2018 and beyond to meet the anticipated increase in demand. The problem is here and now, and we must hope that the Minister will use this Review of BC Ferries’ operations to identify a robust and sustainable solution for Gabriola.

The only immediate solution that the FAC can see is to ask for some flexibility in the implementation of free seniors’ travel so that we can encourage some ferry users onto the less-used Friday through Monday sailings. There would still be 4 days of free travel for seniors. The FAC is committed to an open decision-making process, so if we are given the opportunity to recommend changes we will consult with the community first.

BC Ferries cancels Sunday morning sailing on March 4 for safety drills

On Sunday, March 4, 2018, the crew of the MV Quinsam will be conducting safety drills and a deployment of the Marine Evacuation Slide System as required by Transport Canada. The following sailings will be cancelled:

Sunday, March 4
Depart Nanaimo Harbour 8:10 am
Depart Descanso Bay, Gabriola 8:50 am

 BC Ferries apologizes for any inconvenience experienced as a result of these sailing cancellations.  See http://www.bcferries.com/bcfservicenotice?id=1115113