Grrr. BC Ferries is getting better.

If being crabby about BC Ferries’ bungling incompetence is what floats your boat, you’ll be disappointed with the newest set of sailing cancellation statistics.

BC Ferries reports on cancellations quarterly. Mid-October, the corporation released the numbers for July through September. That was a period with unprecedented media focus on crewing shortages and other factors causing chaos during tourism season.

Warning: these numbers will not rile you up. In fact, it looks like efforts to solve the problems are... mostly solving the problems.

On the routes from Powell River to Comox and Texada, this spring saw 18 cancellations on both routes due to crewing problems. By this summer, each had just four cancellations total.

The Langdale route was steady at just a handful of cancellations. Saltery Bay is the only local route with an increase in cancellations ​– ​​and those still represented under 1% of sailings.

“This seems very weird to me,” said Kim Barton-Bridges, the chair and long-time member of the Northern Sunshine Coast Ferries Advisory Committee. She expected higher numbers this summer, rather than lower. After taking a look through her email, where she receives cancellation notices, she thinks she figured out why her perception and the reality are so far apart.

“In one month alone, I received 25 service notices just for the Comox ferry,” said Kim. “Every time a sailing is at risk of being cancelled due to a crew shortage, or if it’s running significantly late, BC Ferries sends a notice.”

The effect of all these notices is that BC Ferries seems to be in constant chaos ​– ​​when in fact, nearly all sailings are true to the schedule.

On the one hand, offering so much communication about what might happen (cancellations, lateness) is bad for BC Ferries’ brand, and can have the “cry wolf” effect of travelers not believing the warnings.

On the other hand, communicating this much allows travelers to plan their day; if a sailing may be cancelled, they can choose whether to risk it or not.

Kim also pointed out that BC Ferries struggled with much more than cancelled sailings over the summer.

Too many travelers and too few sailings, with the spectacle of families packed into hot parking lots for hours waiting for a spot on deck, attracted significant media attention. The reservation system, too, created chaos for part of the summer, rather than solving it. Plus, Langdale lost 32 “supplemental” sailings in September and October, as the Queen of Alberni was needed elsewhere.

This dynamic is not captured in the new statistics, Kim said.

In the Westview Harbour, this summer saw frequent waits as full ferries didn’t have enough time to unload, load and leave before the other ferry’s schedule created a back-up ​– ​​and chronically late ferries.

Cancellations may become more frequent again, Kim pointed out.

“We’re already seeing notices again. BC Ferries hired a lot of crew in anticipation of peak season, but in the fall, workers may look for something with more consistent hours.”

How often are BC Ferries cancelled?

Little River (Comox) ​– ​​PR

April to June: 18 cancellations, all crewing shortages

July to September: 4 cancellations, all crewing shortages.

2023 cancellation stat: 1.8%

Blubber Bay (Texada) ​– ​​PR

April to June: 18 cancellations, crewing shortages. Four cancellations, weather.

July to September: 4 cancellations, all crewing shortages.

2023 cancellation stat: 1.8%

Earls Cove ​– ​​Saltery Bay

April to June: 6 cancellations, all crewing shortages

July to September: 12 cancellations, all crewing shortages.

2023 cancellation stat: 0.8%

Horseshoe Bay ​– ​​Langdale

April to June: four weather cancellations, one “other.”

July to September: Two cancellations, crewing shortages. Three cancellations, mechanical. One “other.”

2023 cancellation stat: 0.3%

Pieta Woolley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, qathet Living