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BC Ferries braces for busiest long weekend of the year amid problem-plagued summer

It’s all hands on deck at BC Ferries as staff brace for the busiest long weekend of the year.

The company has been in damage control for much of the summer due to delays, cancelled sailings and poor communication.

In a rare move, the company's CEO faced reporters and cameras Wednesday in an effort to reassure travellers that they can rely on the service.

“It is clear to me that we have struggled,” admitted Nicholas Jimenez. “We have challenges in our business that cannot be fixed overnight.”

The last few weeks have been a fiasco.

The company’s website has been down multiple times, incorrect information about non-existent long waits was posted online and a major vessel required repairs, leading to multiple cancelled sailings.

More than 580,000 passengers and 210,000 vehicles are expected to travel with BC Ferries between Thursday and Tuesday.

The company is promising to do better by hiring more staff and improving its website.

It’s insisting it has pulled out all the stops to ensure smoother sailing than what happened over the Canada Day long weekend.

Sailings were cancelled when the Coastal Celebration was out of service.

The corporation says all ships are in service, fitted with new seals.

BC Ferries has strict rules for customers.

Those with reservations must show up at least half an hour before their sailings.

If they don't, they lose that reservation, and the fee paid for it.

CTV News asked why the corporation isn’t held to the same standard multiple times during Wednesday’s press conference.

The questions seemed to stump the company’s top brass.

There were long pauses afterward and requests for clarification.

“Well here’s what I can tell you. In the instance…for example, when the ship is out of service unexpectedly, we attempt to move customers to a reservation very close to the one that they had,” Jimenez finally replied.

No clear answers were given, only a follow up reply that BC Ferries has an 80 per cent on time performance.

Staff shortages have been an issue for a few years now, leading to cancelled sailings.

The company says it has licensed officers on standby to jump in when needed.

It’s doing a lot of damage control over the long weekend.

Terminals are expected to have entertainment, face painting, watering stations and misting stations for those stuck waiting.


Passengers are urged to travel during off-peak times.

Historically, the most popular times to travel from the Lower Mainland to Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast are Thursday and Friday afternoon.

Saturday morning is the busiest for the Tsawwassen and Horseshoe Bay terminals.

Monday and Tuesday morning are typically the most popular times for travel back to the Lower Mainland.

Walking on instead of driving is also highly encouraged.

“Customers driving on board without a booking may experience sailing waits during peak travel times,” warned the company in an advisory.

Foot passenger bookings are available on most sailings between the mainland and Vancouver Island over the long weekend.

Parking lots fill up quickly on long weekends.

Travellers are advised to take public transit, hire a ride-share or be dropped off.

Customers with bookings should plan to arrive at the terminal 45 to 60 minutes before their sailing.


With files from CTV News Vancouver’s St John Alexander Top Stories

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