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BC Ferries to pull 2nd vessel out of service on major route for repairs: union

BC Ferries is pulling a second vessel from a major route due to repairs, the BC Ferry and Marine Workers Union says.

The union tells CityNews the Spirit of Vancouver Island will go into dry dock just after the Thanksgiving long weekend to undergo repairs to its hull.

“That would be one of BC Ferries’ largest vessels,” said Union President Eric McNeely. “What that’s likely going to do is impact folks travelling to Victoria, Nanaimo, and Langdale.”

The vessel, which usually runs between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay, will be out of commission for at least a week, the union president explains, however, he notes maintenance crews won’t be able to confirm the timeline until the boat is pulled from the water.

“My understanding is this time it’s not possible to delay it further. I think getting through the Thanksgiving weekend, [BC] Ferries is looking to mitigate as much impact as possible.”

McNeely acknowledges that staff and passengers are frustrated as the ferry service has experienced rough waters this year.

“You would expect a highway to be open all the time and when you look at the ferry system as a marine highway, it’s falling short on a few fronts.”

“I think there’s a couple of things there. Over the past year, we’ve seen a lot of disruptions, one of those is mechanical. So, obviously, there needs to be investment in that and making sure there is long-term planning. And the second piece is there have been a lot of cancellations due to staff.

“I think Ferries has to look at both their infrastructure and their human resources and invest in both of those.”

He believes BC Ferries is not meeting the public’s expectations.

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“You go down to Salt Spring Island or Crofton where people have been lined up for kilometres. You think about Horseshoe Bay where people are lined up over the hill waiting. That’s not a ferry service people are used to and it’s not meeting the… interest of ferry users, which is a reliable, safe, consistent system.”

As BC Ferries faces criticism, McNeely says other similar systems in Washington and in Atlantic Canada also have hurdles to jump over and British Columbians don’t often hear about it because we’re not affected by those problems.

This comes as the ferry service’s Coastal Renaissance vessel is still out of service. CityNews reached out to BC Ferries for confirmation on the status of the Spirit of Vancouver Island. It declined and said details will be shared during a news conference at 1:30 p.m.

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With files from Charlie Carey

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