Vesuvius options explored ahead of vessel retirement

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Long-term plans and a variety of options for Vesuvius ferry traffic are being examined with the 2019 retirement of the Howe Sound Queen looming ever closer.

The matter was a key topic of discussion at the semi-annual public meeting between BC Ferries executives and Salt Spring’s ferry advisory committee, which took place at the Harbour House Hotel conference room on Friday. FAC members have raised significant concerns with plans to replace the Howe Sound Queen with the smaller-capacity Quinitsa, but the switch coupled with extra sailings may be the answer for at least a year until another ship becomes available, the ferry company said.

“We do have some concern with capacity during the summer and we’re looking into what we could do,” reported Peter Simpson, BC Ferries’ director of fleet operational strategy.

FAC chair Harold Swierenga repeated a request for a different vessel, noting frequent traffic issues on the Vesuvius route over the past year.

“As you know, the Howe Sound Queen is running late a lot, and overloading,” Swierenga said. “I’d just like to ask that you look at this carefully because it’s become a real problem.”

BC Ferries CEO and president Mark Collins said that getting a bigger ferry would not necessarily solve the problem, and could add to overflow traffic in the roadway. The inability to deal with extra traffic that way was illustrated just the day before, when the Malahat portion of the Trans-Canada highway was closed after an accident and fuel spill, sending Vancouver Island drivers to attempt a detour route over Salt Spring.

Collins observed that adding terminal space isn’t easy when there’s private property involved and no land available for purchase.

“If the Quinitsa could add more round trips and leave on time, that would be a better experience,” Collins suggested.

For more on this story, see the May 30, 2018 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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