The Southern Gulf Islands "Soundings" for January 1999 is a "Planning Update Newsletter" Published by BC Ferries Customer & Community Relations, 2810 Fulford-Ganges Road, Saltspring Island, BC V8K 1Z2.

The issue was headlined:

"The routes they are a-changin'"

"New options will greatly improve service and bottom line"

"Having worked for the past four years on what many have called the most complex ferry puzzle in the world, the [Southern Gulf Island Advisory] Committee and BC Ferries have considered a wide range of models, including the status quo, and have now settled on an approach. ... some of which we can put in place next summer. ... With a better mix of vessels based in proper locations we can actually provide more capacity, increase revenues and decrease operating costs. We're using the equipment more wisely. ... three levels of service (for summer, shoulder and winter seasons ...offer much needed reductions in operating costs, reducing the possibility of further service cuts or rate increases ... preserve the future of Long Harbour and the Tsawwassen-Gulf Island Service."

"Route 4: Fulford Harbour-Swartz Bay

Vessel: Medium-size vessel (85 car-plus capacity), e.g. Queen of Capilano

Based at: Fulford Harbour

Vessel will only operate on this route

4 morning, 6 afternoon/evening sailings" [to and from Swartz Bay]


The Bowen Queen and Mayne Queen are assigned to the routes serving the Mayne-Pender-Saturna Group (Routes 9A and 5A, four return trips per day), while the Queen of Cumberland (sister ship to the Queen of Capilano, with the extra deck fitted to increase capacity to 110 cars, is assigned to route 9, serving Galiano, Mayne and Saltspring from Tsawwassen (four trips per day). The Skeena Queen is assigned to serve Galiano, Mayne and Pender from Swartz Bay (Route 5, four return trips per day).


All of these assignments are hedged by using "e.g." but, given the limited choice of vessels in the fleet, this is is indistinguishable from straight assignment (e.g. how many other vessels are there in the fleet with an official 85 car capacity).

Note:


You get the picture. Four years of planning to "upgrade" the Southern Gulf Islands, and Bowen initially heard about the plans as the result of a leak, with three months to go before implementation, despite a formally agreed and defined communication process. It is not clear that those living in the Southern Gulf Islands are actually happy with the plans either.


ISSUES

Why did Glen Brown, BCFC Vice-President for Inter-Island Services, not think to mention these plans to the Bowen Islanders he met over a long period?

How many people commute from Mayne to their daily work? What other circumstances require such high capacity? Who lives on Mayne?

Is it possible that BC Ferries is short of the normal ferry vessels it requires to fulfil its mandate when faced by a growing and more active Island population? Could this be due to poor management of financial resources, especially investing in risky new technology?

If the BCFC is short of vessels, why are so many used to supply such a small population in the Southern Gulf Islands (four times the car-carrying capacity that would be available to Bowen under their plans)?

If the fast ferry project was designed to revitalise the BC shipbuilding industry, is it possible that normal ferry users are being asked to underwrite the financial risks?


Page last updated 99-03-13