BC Ferries announced this week the Skeena Queen will be off for a mid-life upgrade starting Monday, Oct. 28, with duty on the Fulford-Swartz Bay route to be covered mainly by the Queen of Cumberland until mid-March.
The Bowen Queen will serve the route during the holiday schedule, from Dec. 20, 2019 to Jan. 1, 2020.
As a primary replacement vehicle, the Queen of Cumberland will provide equivalent capacity on the regular schedule, and may provide additional capacity if vehicle ramps are deployed on specific busy sailings. BC Ferries states that vehicles will be loaded differently, with commercial traffic separated from regular vehicle traffic, although customers will still be loaded on a first-come, first-served basis as they arrive at the terminal. During the first week the Queen of Cumberland is on the route, BC Ferries will have additional staff and signage at the Fulford terminal.
Salish Raven replaces the Queen of Cumberland on the Swartz Bay to Southern Gulf Islands route. During the holiday period, though, the Raven will be providing supplemental service between Tsawwassen and the Southern Gulf Islands due to forecasted traffic increases. The smaller capacity Bowen Queen will serve Fulford while the Queen of Cumberland shifts back to the Southern Gulf Islands route.
Two additional round trips per day on the Swartz Bay-Fulford route are being added during the holiday season so the maximum number of customers can be accommodated. There will also be a revised schedule with modified sailing times.
During the Skeena Queen’s mid-life upgrade, customers are encouraged to arrive early at the terminal to get on the sailing of their choice. Metro Vancouver customers are encouraged to reserve early for travel on the Tsawwassen-Southern Gulf Islands route (Route 9) to avoid waits that may occur travelling through Swartz Bay. There will be additional sailings on Route 9 during the December holiday period.
BC Ferries says island customers may want to do their holiday shopping early, or plan their holiday travel around the dates the Bowen Queen is on the route.
The Skeena will be undergoing its upgrade at BC Ferries’ Fleet Maintenance Unit in Richmond, B.C. The work plan includes modernized amenities including new furniture, air conditioning, expanded customer washrooms and additional benches on the exterior deck. The navigation, communication and electrical systems will be improved to enhance safety and reliability.
The upgrade is expected to ensure the Skeena’s good working capacity for the next 20 years.