Early-morning and night-time ferry sailings between Gabriola Island and Nanaimo Harbour are being cancelled and replaced with water taxi service due to a staffing issue, says B.C. Ferries.
In a service notice, B.C. Ferries said the issue has led to a “modified schedule until further notice,” with a 10-passenger water taxi serving as a substitute for the MV Quinsam for several sailings each day. The water taxi will depart Descanso Bay terminal on Gabriola at 5:15 and 6:20 a.m. and 7, 8:40, 9:40 and 10:35 p.m. and will sail from Nanaimo Harbour at 5:45 and 6:50 a.m. and at 7:35, 9:10, 10:05 and 11 p.m. The MV Quinsam will operate at all other times, B.C. Ferries said.
Vanessa Craig, Regional District of Nanaimo director for Gabriola Island, told the News Bulletin residents will be negatively affected. In particular, the 6:20 a.m. sailing sees heavy traffic, with people headed to Nanaimo for work and medical appointments. The fact the water taxi doesn’t accommodate vehicles is problematic, she said.
“My understanding is that due to the vaccine mandate that was brought in on Monday, they didn’t have sufficient [workers] to cover two full crews … We’re hearing a lot from residents on an ongoing basis,” said Craig. “The issue with the water taxi, it carries 10 people at a time, but unfortunately it hasn’t been shuttling back and forth, so people have been showing up around 6 a.m. for the 6:20 a.m. water taxi, but they don’t actually get a ride till after 7 a.m., so we’re trying to address that or have a larger water taxi.”
B.C. Ferries has been contacted for comment. The ferry corporation said in the service notice that safety is of paramount importance, as a set number of on-board crew members is needed to adhere to Transport Canada regulations.
B.C. Ferries also apologized for any inconvenience it is causing to passengers.
Craig said a meeting with B.C. Ferries is scheduled for this afternoon, Nov. 18, to further discuss the matter.
“It’s evolving so we are talking to them,” said Craig. “If we’re going to stick with this schedule with the water taxis, we need to have more water taxi service, so either larger water taxis, two water taxis or more frequent runs, because we have a buildup of people from the Gabriola side that can’t get off the ferry in a timely fashion.”