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Mechanical failure on BC Ferries vessel strands passengers overnight for five hours

BC Ferries passenger stranded overnight Sunday
Passengers were stranded on board a BC Ferries vessel for five hours overnight Sunday. Videographer Carlo Fortin joins us live to describe the ordeal.

A dramatic Sunday for BC Ferries staff, crew and passengers, with one ferry marooned for hours overnight because of mechanical failure and two other vessels intercepted to take part in a marine rescue in separate incidents.

The Coastal Renaissance, with more than 500 passengers aboard, departed Duke Point in Nanaimo at 8:15 p.m. on Sunday bound for Tsawwassen.

Fifteen minutes into its scheduled journey, the vessel’s engines quit, leaving it to drift until its anchors were dropped.

BC Ferries passengers stranded at sea for hours
BC Ferries passengers stranded at sea for hours

Matt Punty, speaking with Global News from aboard the vessel on Sunday evening, said a ship announcement told passengers that a breaker had blown and affected the propulsion system.

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Then just before 10 p.m., passengers were told that the boat would have to be pulled back to port by tugboats, Punty said.

Read more: BC Ferries to require passengers to have face masks on longer sailings

BC Ferries spokesperson Astrid Chang confirmed that mechanical failure had stranded the Renaissance and that tugboats would arrive by 10:30 p.m. to bring it back to port.

“In the meantime, though,” said Chang, “we’re providing our customers on board with complimentary food and beverages, and we certainly apologize to our customers for this inconvenience and the disruption to their travel plans tonight.”

However, the vessel remained stranded at 12:15 a.m. despite two tugs arriving on scene.

It was not until about 2 a.m. that the vessel was towed back to the terminal and passengers were finally able to disembark.

The first of two tugboats to arrive in aid of the Coastal Renaissance ferry, stranded 15 minutes into its journey from Duke Point to Tsawwassen.
The first of two tugboats to arrive in aid of the Coastal Renaissance ferry, stranded 15 minutes into its journey from Duke Point to Tsawwassen. Alan Ball

They were told refunds would be made via credit card for anyone with a reservation, Punty said, with everyone else to be refunded at the ticket desks in the terminal, adding to an already long wait.

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Videographer Carlo Fortin told Global News Monday morning that staff did offer complimentary coffee and tea to passengers but nothing else.

“We were not out of the terminal until about 3:05, 3:10,” he said.

“They were kind of giving us certain intermittent warnings about what was happening with the engineers and stuff like that before the tug boats came but it was kind of the same message throughout the whole night. They were just hoping for the best as we were. It is what it is, is what they said.”

Fortin and his wife now have to pay a premium to reserve a spot on BC Ferries Tuesday as they are reserving less than seven days before travel.

“We’re out a couple of hundred bucks tonight,” he said.

The next scheduled Duke Point/Tsawwassen sailing was first come, first serve on Monday at 5:45 a.m.

Read more: B.C. government keeping 11 minor ferry routes afloat to cover COVID-19 losses

Meanwhile, earlier Sunday, the Queen of Oak Bay and Queen of Cowichan were dispatched to help three people trapped on a seven-metre Bayliner watercraft as the vessel was taking on water.

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A Coast Guard boat eventually reached the craft, and the three people rescued were transferred to Nanaimo to be checked out.

“That caused some delays with (the ferries),” said Chang, “But it’s really important that we do participate in those marine rescues when we’re called to do so, and so we thank our customers for their patience and understanding as we had some additional delays on that route, too.”