The BC Ferries C-class vessel which has been dry-docked since August, will now be sidelined longer than expected.
The company said the Coastal Renaissance will not be back in service until March.
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. But, once again, the date has been pushed back into early March.
BC Ferries said the Coastal Inspiration will be the fill-in for the Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay route. No change to passenger or vehicle capacity is expected.
“BC Ferries is taking a flexible approach to the deployment of its vessels across routes and is pleased to be able to put its passengers first and maintain the same capacity levels that were originally planned,” a spokesperson 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.
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. 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.
— With files from Elizabeth McSheffrey and Richard Zussman