Regular vehicle traffic on the Vesuvius-Crofton ferry route will hopefully see an end to overloads and missed ferries as of April 2020, with plans to replace BC Ferries vessel Quinitsa during peak seasons announced Thursday.
A news release issued by BC Ferries outlines a plan to deploy the Bowen Queen to the route between April and October in 2020 and to assess its use in future peak seasons from there, until a more permanent vessel replacement takes place.
The news release explains that staff met with Salt Spring community members in August to explore solutions for improvement after hearing customer concerns about overloads. Customers identified a number of common concerns, including insufficient vessel capacity, lack of customer amenities at terminals, inadequate customer information and commercial/dangerous good vehicles congesting peak time sailings.
These concerns were front and centre of the semi-annual public meeting with BC Ferries officials held in June, when a full house at the Harbour House Hotel meeting room demanded improvements. Many members of the public who attended that session and commented elsewhere wondered why the Bowen Queen could not be put on the route.
At the time, BC Ferries explained the ferry was needed to service the Port McNeill-Alert Bay-Sointula-route during its busy summer schedule. A new Island-class ferry is set to arrive there this winter.
Calculated at 61 automobile equivalent spaces or AEQ, the Bowen Queen has more capacity overall than the Quinitsa, which is calculated at 44 AEQ. The Bowen has less space available for commercial vehicles, however, because of the covered deck design. The open deck MV Quinsam (63 AEQ) is expected to be brought onto the route in a few years time, once two new ferries are deployed to Gabriola-Nanaimo.
BC Ferries said representatives and community members at the August workshop arrived at possible solutions and priorities for the ideas that would be most realistic to implement, while offering the greatest benefit. Other actions BC Ferries has taken include improved signage near the terminals regarding next available sailings. The ferry company is also analyzing how and where to install webcams, and ways to provide more timely sailing information. A community suggestion to move dangerous goods sailings to lower demand times is also being explored.
Meanwhile, terminal development plans for both Crofton and Vesuvius terminals are in progress, identifying changes that can be made at both terminals for improved customer experience for decades to come.
BC Ferries thanks all its customers who have shared feedback and suggestions on the service. The company states it is committed to making realistic changes that lead to improved service.