Instead, the Coastal Celebration — another vessel that was out for repairs over the summer — is set to take on its scheduled sailings between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen, ensuring that major route is operating at full capacity over the holidays, said public affairs director Deborah Marshall.
“The Coastal Celebration was going to be on standby over the holiday period. Now, we have pressed that vessel into service,” she told Global News.
“While we don’t have another vessel in reserve, I know that our engineers are working extremely hard to maintain all of our vessels, all of our assets … and we will be ready for the up to 1 million passengers that we do expect travelling with us over this holiday season.”
The Renaissance was taken out of service in August following a motor failure, causing thousands of cancelled and reassigned bookings. It was first expected to return to the water mid-October, but that timeframe was extended to mid-December.
Marshall said a short circuit was recently detected in motor testing on the vessel and a team is investigating its cause. She urged anyone with holiday travel plans reliant on BC Ferries to make a reservation now.
“We will have extra sailings between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay, Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay, Horsehoe Bay-Langdale, and we’ll also have an extra vessel between Tsawwassen and the southern Gulf Islands.”
BC Ferries plans to update the public on its retrofit plans early next year, the company said.
News of the additional repair delay comes just one day after BC Ferries closed its public feedback survey on customer service, the results of which are slated to be released in January or February.
It also comes less than two months after the provincial government announced it would start fining the company thousands next April for sailings cancelled due to crew shortages. Staffing shortages were responsible for roughly four in 10 cancellations last year, according to a BC Ferries report.
The former Crown corporation is subsidized by the province by hundreds of millions of dollars each year.
Official Opposition MLA Trevor Halford, shadow minister for transportation, said he was recently told by Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Rob Fleming that the Coastal Renaissance would be back in the water by mid-December and was surprised by Wednesday’s revelation.
“I’m worried that the minister has no idea what’s going on with BC Ferries,” Halford told Global News. “I wish I could give some optimism, but we’ve seen BC Ferries performance, we’ve seen the minister’s performance on this file — nobody’s giving them a passing grade.
“They’ve over-promised and under-delivered, and to me, that’s unacceptable, especially when you have public that are counting on this transportation network.”
In an interview, Fleming said he was also concerned about the Coastal Renaissance, but BC Ferries only learned on Tuesday about the test failure. The company is still worthy of public confidence, he added.
“The company has seen some improvement. Having had difficulties over the early long weekends in the summer, they performed much better over BC Day weekend and Labor Day weekend,” Fleming said. “They, of course, have had a very successful year with recruitment and retention, hiring 1,200 employees, trying to get at the crewing issues that have seen some cancellations.”
In October, BC Ferries hired four new vice-presidents and three new operating divisions in an effort to better address the “short and longer term challenges we face,” CEO Nicolas Jimenez said at the time.