Measures aim to quell ongoing discontent with contracted passenger-ferry-service provider
A code of conduct for passengers and additional training for crew members are on their way for the beleaguered Lasqueti Island ferry service, as Transport Canada issues upgrading orders for the route’s main vessel.
B.C. Ferries, which contracts the service to operator Western Pacific Marine Ltd. of Vancouver, has asked the company to develop a mitigation plan to cover missed sailings due to a shortage of crew, said B.C. Ferries spokesperson Karen Johnston.
The 69-foot-long Centurion VII ferry runs regular sailings of about 50 minutes between French Creek near Parksville on Vancouver Island and Lasqueti Island, with a population of close to 500. It can carry up to 59 passengers with a full crew of three.
A B.C. Ferries official met this week with the island’s ferry committee and WPM, Johnston said.
The parties agreed to work on a number of items, including improving communication around sailings cancellations and codes of conduct, Johnston said.
WPM has been meeting the terms of its contract, she said.
Island committee chair Shelley Garside said Friday a public meeting will be set up by the committee, B.C. Ferries and WPM for people to air their views and listen to each other.
The committee has heard from island residents about issues such as reliability of service, and clear and timely communication, Garside said.
“We’ve been meeting [with WPM] to try and mitigate any issues with the contract and items we outlined.”
This week’s meeting was valuable but “I think we still have work to do,” she said.
Odai Sirri, WPM general manager, said its code of conduct for crew will be reinforced and there will be extra training, including in de-escalation.
A code of conduct for travellers will be posted on the ferry, he said. (Garside said she believes such a code already exists.)
The company is also investigating ways to provide digital notification of changes to the service schedule, Sirri said.
“I’m very confident that things will be improved as we move forward.”
As for mitigation measures for missed sailings, Sirri said the company has already been taking steps and at times goes beyond what is required in the ferry service contract.
The Centurion VII is undergoing a refit this month. “Minor” issues identified by Transport Canada during an inspection this summer are being rectified, Sirri said.
Mikaila Lironi, Lasqueti Island trustee for the Islands Trust, said she has been contacted by ferry users dissatisfied with the service, complaining about issues such as cancelled sailings and new onboard rules.
Lironi said she encouraged those with concerns to contact authorities responsible for the service.
Transport Canada’s marine safety inspector has conducted a number of inspections of the Centurion VII, said Sau Sau Liu, department spokesperson.
The department has “issued the vessel operator with a deficiency notice and provided a reasonable timeline to rectify issues identified,” she said.
Specific issues were not released by Transport Canada, but Liu said the deficiencies do not affect the vessel’s carrying capacity.
Graham Clarke, of Vancouver, is listed on the province’s registry service as WPM’s director.
While the Centurion VII is out of service, the Hollyburn, a smaller back-up ferry, is being used.
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