Plan to penalize BC Ferries for missed 'core-service' sailings, details next year

VICTORIA — The British Columbia government is planning to penalize BC Ferries when it cancels "core-service" sailings due to staffing shortages after a summer of travel chaos for passengers.

A statement from the Ministry of Transportation says details of the plan to improve the reliability of the ferry service will be confirmed next spring.

Transportation Minister Rob Fleming says he knows last summer was frustrating for travellers and a challenge for BC Ferries due to staffing and mechanical issues.

The statement says the province has renewed its contract with the ferry service for another four-year term ending in March 2028, and the new agreement adds more than 1,400 round-trip sailings each year as "core services."

It says the sailings on 13 minor routes were previously designated as discretionary, and the change will improve service for smaller, ferry-dependent communities.

Fleming says the provision for penalties over missed core sailings is aimed at holding the company accountable for the services it is contracted to provide.

The province is also providing $500 million to help mitigate fare increases, saying BC Ferries has confirmed annual increases of 3.2 per cent over the next four years.

Without the provincial funding, the Transportation Ministry says fare increases would have been approximately 9.2 per cent each year over the same time period.

"At a time of high interest rates, we made a prudent investment that allows BC Ferries to continue with its longer-term capital plans that will improve capacity and reliability, while keeping fare increases low," Fleming says.

The BC Ferries capital plan includes spending on new ships, more staff, and terminal and technology upgrades.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2023.

The Canadian Press