… and while we're on the subject of BC Ferries.

Brian Dearden published the following suggestions in the November MayneLiner in his monthly space. I thought the suggestions were spot on and asked to re-publish them here on MayneNews. With his kind permission I do so below. This is fodder for much discussion and I hope that Brian and others might be suggesting ideas like this at the meetings and directly to our political representatives.

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In case you haven't noticed, there is a lot of heated dialogue in the media about our current BC Ferries situation. There is chatter around the problems but other than raising rates and eliminating services, there doesn't seem to be much discussion about positive solutions that would allow us to move ahead as communities and businesses.

Here at the lumber yard we have had to make adjustments in the way we do business to meet the challenges of higher fuel and ferry costs and less construction: suck it up, the boom times are over for a while, it happens every now and then. This doesn't mean we shut down and price ourselves out of the market. We have had to take a hard look at staffing, how we are doing our trucking, inventory levels and product selection, and in general, making the smart business decisions to allow us to maintain a properly run, profitable business.

It is time for BC Ferries to do the same without defaulting to the standard reaction: raise the rates and cut services.

As a major user of the ferry service, I would like an answer - Why aren't we looking at some alternative ideas? These are not necessarily new solutions, they have been shelved in the past but it is time to dust them off and have another look, they may be an exciting route to take. We need to put a positive spin to what this could mean to our Island communities, both socially and economically.

If we take a moment and just look at our own situation in the Southern Gulf Islands, we have a combination of boats traveling empty and scheduling challenges that combined, amount to huge losses on the income statement and disgruntled customers trying to deal with rising costs and late boats. Focus in on these specifics and come up with solutions, a number of us believe that some of the answers are obvious.

You want to eliminate at least two empty runs for both the Cumberland and Mayne Queen a day? Home Port. I can hear the union screams already but quite frankly this would have a tremendous positive impact on the whole area; it has to be considered. I have taken the early morning ferry out of Swartz Bay many times, not because I have to get back by seven in the morning but because it is there. Would I care if it was a few hours later, probably not. These early morning boats are simply transferring the crews and boats to where they should have been in the first place, loading up a full boat to go back to Swartz Bay. The last boats of the day transfer the crews and boats back to Swartz Bay, for the most part, empty. Add up the diesel, crew costs, wear and tear on the boats and carbon foot print. Two boats, two empty trips a day, 365 days a year, that adds up to 1460 empty trips a year, wonder what that costs! Add to the equation what a fair number of well paid jobs would do for the Island economies and you may start to get the picture.

Solution number two. Run a small K-class ferry ie. one of the available and for sale Albion ferries between Saturna and Mayne. Tie the two communities together, save a whole bunch of diesel, create some more employment on Saturna and solve once and for all the scheduling headaches that having to run to Saturna with the two larger boats creates. A K-class ferry has a drop down loading ramp. Punch a road through at St.Johns Point, use the existing facilities at Lyall Harbour and start realizing the cost and scheduling benefits.

These are just two options that could make substantial inroads to improving ferry efficiencies and offer cost savings that should not be ignored. Of course implementation would present it's challenges, change always does. Running a business successfully takes leadership and at times out of the box thinking. Lets discuss these two ideas with this in mind and create an efficient, profitable service that we can all be proud of.

2 comments:

  1. I have two further suggestions, these both are in regard to ferry traffic to Tswassen.

    Mayne had a deep ferry port. It is, I think, the only port that could be access to one of the larger ferries that runs to Swartz Bay. At one time there was a ferry route that included a stop at Mayne. That could once again be put into place Swartz Bay to Mayne to Tswassen twice a day. The other islands could be loaded at Mayne, the boat coming from Tswassen could facilitate traffic returning to Mayne from Swartz Bay. The remained of the boat could be filled with traffic to/from Victoria. I have noticed while travelling the route from Tswassen to Victoria that these boats are also often near empty.

    Although the powers that be claim increases in fares have not decreased vehicle transport on the Queen of Nanaimo. I beg to differ. The cost has doubled since we moved to Mayne 7 years ago. We often go as foot passengers due to this increase. This has affected many ferry users and many businesses on Mayne. People are not coming over as frequently and they now often come as foot passengers which affects their ability to get about the island.
    In the winter months BC ferries has specials for those travelling between the mainland and Vancouver Island. We took advantage of one of those specials going Tswassen to Swartz, then home to Mayne - saved ourselves $45 and that was paying for both ferries.

    Why not have winter or mid-week specials for those travelling to the Gulf Islands. Wouldn't it be better to have a ferry load of vehicles at half price instead of a near empty ferry?

    We are away from the island for the next couple of weeks so unfortunately won't be present for the Consultative (?) meeting.

    Best regards
    Dell Maxwell

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  2. Thanks for your comment Dell. I'm not sure if having the Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen ferry make a stop on Mayne could work when it's running during busy times, but maybe mid-week off-season could save some money. I wonder if the powers who look at this would ever consider something like that.

    I heard the minister responsible for BC Ferries, Mary Polak on the radio several days ago and she kept making the comment about smaller route ferries running with fewer passengers than crew. I'd bet that a lot of those runs would be the ones Brian is talking about, when the ferries are leaving their home ports almost empty to pick up their first passengers or going back to their home port late at night. It makes sense to have the home port be where the passengers are for the early and late runs. It seems preferable to me to home port those ferries here rather than cut service at other times, which will only cause a further economic hit for our island and coastal communities.

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