The repercussions of the ferry police incident were felt throughout Friday

Thursday night’s incident had a ripple effect on the BC Ferries system, with some departures more than two hours late and long queues at terminals.

The effects of the police incident on a Thursday night ferry trip were felt throughout Friday, with eight departures canceled and delays of more than two hours on some routes.

On Friday afternoon, passengers trying to get to Swartz Bay could be seen walking along the Pat Bay Highway, their suitcases in tow, as traffic came to a standstill several miles from the terminal.

Trouble started on a Thursday while sailing from Duke Point to Tsawwassen. BC Ferries staff, concerned that two occupants of a vehicle were “worrying staff and employees”, turned the Coastal Inspiration back, the Nanaimo RCMP constable said. Gary O’Brien.

Police boarded the ship when it returned to Nanaimo just after 9 p.m.

Only one person was in the car when they arrived. Allegedly intoxicated by drugs, he was arrested for public intoxication “for his own safety,” O’Brien said.

Police searched for the second man, but could not find him on the ship.

O’Brien said police followed reports from CCTV cameras, witness statements and taxis waiting at the ferry that the missing man may have left the ferry and taken a taxi.

Officers found him safe and sound around noon on Friday and returned his vehicle – which had to be towed from the ferry, since he left with the keys -.

BC Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall said the Coastal Inspiration was held at the Duke Point berth alone for about four hours while police did their job, leaving the crew in the berth for about 16 hours.

The other ship operating on the run, the Coastal Renaissance, was unable to dock and was stranded offshore, Marshall said. The crew and passengers had to remain on board for more than two hours.

There was crew fatigue on both ships, she said. “Obviously we wanted to take them out.”

The repercussions of the incident continued to be felt on Friday, with long queues at terminals, ferries arriving hours late and departures canceled.

While new crews were brought in Friday morning, crew members involved in the incident were expected to be back on duty Friday afternoon, and replacements were unavailable, Marshall said.

“We just don’t have the resilience to replace that many people,” she said, noting that it takes at least 33 people each to operate the two ships.

Due to the shortage, eight Friday afternoon and evening departures were canceled on the Duke Point-Tsawwassen route – four in each direction.

In Tsawwassen, traffic was blocked on the causeway, stranding both ferry customers and crews coming to work, Marshall said.

Shipping on all Tsawwassen routes – including to Swartz Bay and the Gulf Islands – was affected.

The first sail of the day to Swartz Bay, scheduled for 6 a.m. from Tsawwassen, did not leave until 8 a.m., Marshall said.

The delays continued throughout the day, causing traffic to back up at Swartz Bay.

In Swartz Bay on Friday afternoon, pedestrians were getting off the buses to walk about two kilometers to the terminal from McDonald Park Road.

Staff shortages plagued BC Ferries throughout the busy summer season.

Last week, travelers on the Duke Point-Tsawwassen route had to wait until 12 p.m. for crossings in what the company called “the rush trip,” and the past weekend saw further cancellations and delays due to personnel issues.

Vessels require a specific number of crew members on board to ensure passenger safety in the unlikely event of an emergency and to comply with Transport Canada regulations.

According to the ferry company, the decision to cancel a crossing is taken when it has exhausted all options to find a replacement crew.

Ferry systems around the world are facing the same problem due to a global shortage of skilled seafarers, an aging workforce as baby boomers retire and the lingering effect of the pandemic of COVID-19.

jbell@timescolonist.com

— With file by Andrew A. Duffy

jbell@timescolonist.com


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