June 22, 2023
BC FERRIES LAUNCHES SUMMER SCHEDULE
VICTORIA – BC Ferries busy summer season begins today with more sailings and more staff however, customers should expect some cancellations.
Transitioning to summer schedules involves putting five additional ferries into service on routes between Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, and the Southern Gulf Islands. These supplemental vessels require hundreds of additional crew to provide over 4,700 additional sailings over the three-month period ending Labour Day. BC Ferries expects to move nearly 2.6 million vehicles and almost 7 million passengers through September 5.
In support of the transition, a system-wide hiring initiative (the largest in the company’s 63-year history) has added more than 1,200 staff in the last year including 140 recently recruited professional mariners with more than 70 from Ukraine.
“We’ve done a lot to ensure smooth sailing this summer, but we need to be prepared that not all ships will sail all of the time,” said BC Ferries President and CEO Nicolas Jimenez. “Even though we have more people, we are short back-up staff in key positions to cover unexpected absences. I hope customers will continue to offer their understanding as we grapple with retirements and a global shortage of 21,000 professional mariners.”
By regulation, vessels require a minimum number of skilled mariners before a sailing can depart. Back-up crews are particularly thin at Swartz Bay and Nanaimo, meaning even one or two crew absences can result in a cancelled sailing. In the event of a sailing cancellation, BC Ferries does its utmost to accommodate customers and has published guidelines on what to expect on its website.
Last year, between June, July and August, BC Ferries was forced to cancel more than 300 sailings due to crew shortages. That represents 0.7 per cent of all sailings during that period.
“The issues we’re facing are complex and while we’re hiring more people, boosting training budgets and cross-training staff so they can be re-deployed in areas of greatest need, getting to long-term reliability and sustainability will take time,” said Jimenez. “I offer my heartfelt thanks to the BC Ferries team for their ongoing dedication, offering back-up when they can to mitigate impacts to customer service where possible.”
This spring, BC Ferries launched its new app to make travel easier by allowing customers to make bookings, manage trips and monitor service alerts. This advancement follows a new customer-friendly website in 2020, and restructured discount Saver fares on some routes.
Summertime Travel Tips
- Book in advance – Book early to secure a spot on the sailing of your choice. Book online at bcferries.com. Customers with advance bookings do not experience sailing waits, even when multiple waits are reported. Customers with flexibility can travel at off-peak times to avoid the rush and in many instances travel at a reduced fare.
- Consider off-peak travel times – Customers travelling with vehicles without an advance booking will likely experience sailing waits at peak times. Be prepared for sailing waits if you are travelling without a booking. The best option to avoid sailing waits is to travel during less busy times. These are typically mid-week days and early morning or late evening sailings.
- Ride-share, if possible – Vehicle deck space fills up quickly. Customers are encouraged to carpool or take public transit. For schedule information visit TransLink or BC Transit.
- Consider parking options – Parking lots at the major terminals also fill up quickly on long weekends. If possible, choose public transit or arrange to be dropped off at the terminal to avoid traffic congestion. Parking lot status by terminal is provided via Twitter @BCFerries and on our website.
- Arrive early – Customers with advance bookings should plan to arrive at the terminal 45-60 minutes before their scheduled departure. Walk-on passengers should arrive 45 minutes early for their anticipated sailing. If you have an important appointment or connection with another ferry or flight, travel on an earlier ferry. For travel certainty and a faster check-in process, walk-on passengers can book in advance online on select routes.
- Consider travelling on Saturday of a long weekend – Heavy traffic is expected Thursday into Friday and Sunday into Monday morning. It’s always a good idea to check current conditions before heading to the terminal and review the routes-at-a-glance page.
- Prepare for warm weather – pack your sunscreen, a sun hat and plenty of water for you and your pets. Misting stations will be in place for customers to cool down at major terminals, as well as many minor staffed terminals.
- Follow local traffic laws – Obey posted speed limits on all roadways, including rural communities like such as the Southern and Northern Gulf Islands.
BC Ferries, Media Relations
Victoria: (250) 978-1267
Victoria: (250) 410-1465
Toll-free: 1-888-BCFERRY (1-888-223-3779)
Note to newsrooms: For urgent media inquiries off-hours, call our off-hours line at (250) 516-7211.