Ferries will stop sailing out of Departure Bay for the next two months as B.C. Ferries is making major reductions in sailings on all its routes.
The ferry corporation announced Friday morning that service cuts will take effect Saturday, April 4, for a 60-day period, and will impact hundreds of workers.
All service on the Departure Bay-Horseshoe Bay route is being ceased, as is all service on the Brentwood Bay-Mill Bay route.
Regular sailings will be cut by 50 per cent on the Tsawwassen-Duke Point and Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay routes, though B.C. Ferries will run four additional cargo-only round trips daily between Tsawwassen and Duke Point.
The Langdale-Horseshoe Bay route will see a 25-per cent service reduction.
The press release notes that the changes are meant to protect the health and safety of communities and ferry workers and better match service levels to the current demand. Mark Collins, B.C. Ferries president and CEO, said in a video message that ferry traffic is down 80 per cent.
“These changes are designed to ensure we have sufficient capacity to allow the flow of essential goods, services, supplies and workers to their destinations,” said Collins in a press release. “We will continue to transport the goods communities rely on, and we will get people to where they need to go.”
Collins added, in a video message, that the service reductions “will result in temporary layoffs for hundreds of dedicated and loyal ferry workers.” He said the goal is to keep the layoff periods “as short as possible” and said the corporation’s skilled workers will be needed to restore ferry service when traffic returns.
“This was not an easy decision to make,” he said. “We know how hard this will be for our employees and their families.”
The B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers’ Union, in a special bulletin April, shared information with members about available financial supports and benefits and added that “we feel blind-sided” by B.C. Ferries’ decision.
“That B.C. Ferries has announced this to you is at best premature, and leaves us concerned the employer intends to ignore clear provisions of the collective agreement,” the bulletin noted. “It is disappointing that B.C. Ferries is taking a cavalier approach to the welfare of our members in a time of crisis.”
The regular service cuts on the Tsawwassen-Duke Point and Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay routes will see four round-trips per day instead of eight. Gibsons-Horseshoe Bay will see six round-trips per day instead of eight.
Northern and mid-coast ferry service will continue to operate at winter service levels and the summer direct service from Bella Coola to Port Hardy will not come into effect.
Collins said in the video message that the Tsawwassen-southern Gulf Islands route will see one-ship service using a Salish-class vessel based in Swartz Bay. Salt Spring Island’s service from Long Harbour will be suspended, but the island will continue to be served by its two remaining routes.