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Latest ferry cancellations prompt Bowen Island mayor to call for reliable service

VANCOUVER – Hundreds of people were stranded on Bowen Island when BC Ferries unexpectedly cancelled half a day’s worth of sailings between Snug Cove and Horseshoe Bay Saturday afternoon.

To help stranded travellers on the small island, BC Ferries offered water taxis that were able to fit 40 or 12 people at a time, but the taxis were not able to bring over any vehicles, leaving many travellers trapped and forced to stay overnight.

Bowen Island Mayor Andrew Leonard said the community and municipal staff rallied together to help.

“It was a scramble to manage traffic in the Snug Cove area. It was a scramble to deal with the excess of vehicles that were on the island and it was a scramble to ultimately help people find accommodations as they were stranded here overnight,” Leonard said.

Since the small community doesn’t have any hotels, he said locals opened up their homes and offered their extra rooms, AirBNB hosts also stepped up and a local summer camp opened up to accommodate 35 people.

“Bowen Islanders are rather wonderful. I think they all pulled together and figured out where to put people, and some people slept in their car I gathered," said Wendy Winslow, a West Vancouver resident.

People on Bowen Island depend on the ferry to take them to school, work or appointments in Metro Vancouver.

Bowen Island residents are used to cancellations, but never on a scale like Saturday’s.

“It hasn't been this bad, but it's always been a bit of an issue. It’s definitely worse recently,” said Max Paulux, a life-long Bowen Island resident.

The mayor said it is calling on the province, BC Ferries and Metro Vanouver to come up with solutions to prevent something like this from happening again.

“Our message is pretty clear, particularly with the province and Premier Eby talking about the ferry system like it's British Columbia's marine highway system. It feels like this link between Bowen Island and the mainland is starting to crumble. We have issues of transit security and reliability at a time when we're experiencing unprecedented resident growth and unprecedented tourist growth,” he said.

He said he is worried about these major cancellations becoming a safety issue, putting residents and visitors “in harm’s way” because Bowen Island doesn’t have the infrastructure to deal with these unexpected challenges.

BC Ferries said staffing shortages are to blame for Saturday’s cancellations.

“We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience,” BC Ferries wrote in an email to CTV News. “We require a specific number of crew members on board the vessel to ensure the safety of our passengers in the unlikely event of an emergency and to comply with Transport Canada regulations. The decision to cancel a sailing in these circumstances is made when we have exhausted all options to find replacement crew.”

The corporation said its largest recruitment campaign is underway to fill as many vacancies as possible, adding there is a world-wide shortage of mariners.

It has introduced incentives and better allowances, increased its training budget and boosted its cadet training program. Top Stories

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