Island Gwawis

About this ferry

Gwawis (GWA-WIS) means “Raven of the Sea” in Kwakwaka'wakw and was selected with input and support from the 'Na̲mg̲is First Nation.

The Island Gwawis provides regular ferry service between Gabriola Island (Descanso Bay) and Nanaimo (Nanaimo Harbour).

Onboard amenities
Also available on this ferry
Outer Deck Seating
Wheelchair stair lift
Pet area
Accessible Washrooms
Passenger lounge
Vending machines
Heated solarium and seating area

As part of our ongoing commitment to safety, operational guidelines call for regular and frequent safety drills for all crew members on every ship.

Over 1,000 drills will be conducted this year to ensure the highest safety standards for BC Ferries’ vessels and crews.

In the event of an emergency, always follow the instructions of ship’s personnel. Please note that in the case of an emergency, vehicle access may be prohibited.


Emergency signals

The following signals are used to crew members to an emergency:

  • Emergency stations
    Continuous sounding of the alarm bell.
  • Person overboard
    Three long soundings of the whistle and general alarm, followed by a PA announcement. In case of Person Overboard situations, keep outer decks clear where rescue operations are underway.
  • Evacuation stations
    Seven or more short soundings followed by one prolonged sounding of the ship's general alarm and/or whistle.

Signals will be followed by an announcement explaining the nature of the emergency. If you hear an emergency signal our crew will take immediate charge of the situation and explain exactly what to do.


Ship evacuation

There are two marine evacuation systems, one on each side of Deck 2. Each station has sufficient capacity to evacuate 250 persons.

Should there ever be a need to evacuate the ship, crew members will direct you to one of these evacuation stations.


Rescue boats

This vessel carries one rescue boat on Deck 4 to assist with Person Overboard situations as well as towing life rafts to help passengers to safety in the event of an evacuation.


Life jackets

Life jackets are stowed in marked lockers on Deck 2. You’ll find them in the passenger lounge and portside of the main vehicle deck.

There are three types of lifejacket available: one for infants up to 15 kg, one for children from 15-43 kg, and one for adults. In the unlikely event of an emergency, crew members will instruct you on the proper use of your life jacket.


Assembly stations

In the event of an emergency, there are two Assembly Stations that may be used to direct passengers away from a situation or to prepare for evacuation. Assembly stations are located within the Deck 2 passenger lounge and on the portside of the main vehicle deck.


Fire suppression

Fire extinguishers are located throughout interior passenger areas. The onboard fire detection system monitors heat, smoke and manual alarm devices.

The information contained here applies to the Island Class vessels only. Locations and complement of safety equipment on other vessels will vary.


Any questions or comments?

Call BC Ferries toll-free: 1-888-BC FERRY (223-3779).

Links & more

View the schedule for routes between Gabriola Island (Descanso Bay) and Nanaimo (Nanaimo Harbour).

Visit our accessibility page

Back to our fleet

The information on this page applies to the Island Gwawis only. Locations and complement of safety equipment on other ferries will vary.

Build statistics
  • Built
  • Overall length (m) 80.8
  • Maximum displacement (t) 1778.0
  • Car capacity 47
  • Passenger & crew capacity 399
  • Maximum speed (knots) 14.0
  • Horsepower 956
Accessible services

BC Ferries provides a variety of services for persons with disabilities to ensure a safe and comfortable journey for all our passengers.

Please note: Persons with disabilities who will require special assistance in the event of an emergency are asked to advise the ship’s crew. Once you have boarded the vessel, please discuss your specific needs with the Chief Mate.

In addition, persons with disabilities are encouraged to fill out and carry a C-MIST* card with them at all times. In the event of an emergency, passengers can be helped more efficiently by listing their specific needs in five key areas (communication, medical needs/support, independence, supervision and transportation).

A C-MIST form can be downloaded at:


Personal assistance


BC Ferries staff are available to answer any questions you might have and to familiarize passengers with the available amenities. Customers who require personal assistance while onboard our ships are asked to travel with a companion who is able to provide the level of assistance required. If you have any questions about the types of assistance we can provide, please call 1-888-BC FERRY (223-3779).


Service animals


Service animals are permitted in our terminals and onboard our ships. Grass areas are available at most terminals. We appreciate you helping us keep our terminals clean by cleaning up after your service animal.

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