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BC Ferries cancels more sailings, others at risk due to crew shortage

Passengers sit on the outer deck of the Queen of Alberni in this undated photo. Simon Little / Global News

BC Ferries was forced to cancel a pair of sailings between Horseshoe Bay and Nanaimo, and may need to cancel multiple sailings between Salt Spring Island and Vancouver Island due to crew shortages.

The ferry company said Thursday it had scrapped the 5 p.m. sailing from Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay and the 7:20 p.m. return sailing due to “crew availability.”

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“Our Customer Service Centre will contact customers with bookings on these cancelled sailings to let them know if we have space available to fit them on an alternate sailing later in the day, or if their booking must be cancelled,” it wrote in a service notice.

Click to play video: 'Mechanical issues cause BC Ferries cancellations, lengthy delays'
Mechanical issues cause BC Ferries cancellations, lengthy delays

Ferries require a minimum number of crew members on board to meet Transport Canada regulations, and BC Ferries said it only cancels sailings when it has “exhausted all options” to find replacements.

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In addition to the Nanaimo-Vancouver cancellations, the company said all sailings on the smaller Vesuvius Bay (Salt Spring) to Crofton (Vancouver Island) route from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. were at risk.

It said if the sailings were cancelled it would it would notify customers.

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On Tuesday and Wednesday the company saw disruptions on its Horseshoe Bay to Langdale route due to mechanical issues with the Queen of Surrey.

The cancellations are the latest in a series of disruptions on some of BC Ferries’ key southern routes as it grapples with what it says is a global shortage of skilled maritime labour.

The company says it has hired about 1,000 new staff since January and recalled about two-thirds of the 150 people who were put on leave without pay due to COVID-19 vaccine mandates as it tries to address the shortage.

In June, the B.C. government shook up the ferry company’s board, appointing long-time New Democrat Joy MacPhail as chair. The following month the board sacked BC Ferries CEO Mark Collins, citing staffing shortages, service interruptions and “systemic challenges.”

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