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Mechanical failure leaves BC Ferries passengers stranded on the water for hours
VANCOUVER -- Hundreds of people were stranded on Vancouver Island Sunday night after a mechanical failure on a BC Ferries vessel.
It happened on the Coast Renaissance vessel during the 8:15 p.m. sailing between Nanaimo and Tsawwassen.
“A few minutes into the sailing the mechanical failure took place, it was, we believe, due to an electrical issue. As a result the vessel had to drop the anchors,” said Astrid Chang of BC Ferries.
One passenger onboard told CTV News the ship briefly lost power.
“The lights went out. It was just the emergency lights. I was charging my phone-- we couldn’t charge phones anymore. And it was super warm inside because they didn’t have air conditioning anymore,” said Melissa Landa.
Landa and three others had spent the weekend camping in Tofino. By the time the ship docked and they had received their refunds from ferry staff, it was around 3 a.m. The group all had to work Monday morning in Vancouver so they drove into the line-up for the first sailing back and slept in the car.
"Four people in a Nissan Versa-- it was very small and we went camping, so it was full of things so we had to sleep there,” Landa said.
Other passengers, like Carlo Fortin, scrambled to find hotels.
"Definitely tired," Fortin said, shortly after checking into a room in Nanaimo.
Fortin was travelling back to Vancouver with three of his friends and family.
"We had to call in sick and fill positions for today's work," he said.
BC Ferries says it offered passengers free food during the wait, but both Fortin and Landa said they were only offered complimentary drinks.
Families with young children and pets took to social media to share their disappointment.
They were stranded on the water for four hours.
"Sometimes when incidents happen, we have to engage with a number of different organizations. In this case, we had to co-ordinate with a tug service and so we had to account for some of that time co-ordinating with them, dealing with some of the repairs, and some of the troubleshooting that had to take place," said Astrid Chang of BC Ferries.
Some tried to catch some shuteye on the upper decks, laying out sleeping bags.
Multiple tug boats showed up hours later and towed the ferry back to Duke Point.
Once docked, passengers reported waiting up to an hour in line to get their refunds.
"We had to re-reserve for tomorrow's sailing so we could for sure get back," said Fortin.
He says they had to pay a premium for the reservation due to the short notice.
"Some of the staff communication was not what we needed to hear. The captain saying, 'It is what it is,' over the intercom, which was like, 'Yeah, thanks for nothing, boss,'" Fortin told CTV News.
He says he's out at least $200 for his hotel room and meals alone.
"A little empathy goes a long way. Maybe they could have offered food vouchers or something like that."
Fortin says he's disappointed in how staff handled the situation.
"Even on land they were not very helpful, not very nice. Empathize. You have 570 passengers on a boat, you're going to have 570 angry passengers."
BC Ferries says is apologizing for the delays.
"These situations are never easy not only for our crew, but also our passengers and I just want to thank our customers for their understanding and their patience. This is a real inconvenience for everyone in the evening and we understand this disrupted a lot of their travel plans," said Chang.
Chang says the repairs were done overnight and it does not anticipate any additional disruptions to sailings.
Anyone who incurred out of pocket expenses due to the disruption is asked to call BC Ferries customer service line: 1-888-223-3779.