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Concerns raised about crew numbers for new BC Ferries

New boats arrived for routes to Sointula-Alert Bay-Port McNeill and Texada Island-Powell River
Quadra Queen II, built in 1969 is being retired. (BC Ferries photo)

Two new additions to the BC Ferries fleet are replacing aging vessels serving islands near Port McNeill.

The Island Aurora and the Island Discovery, two new boats built in Romania, will run on reduced crews of five each, despite having double the capacity of the old ferries they replaced.

BC Ferries told the Gazette no one has been laid off yet, but that talks with the BC Ferry and Marine Workers’ Union are ongoing about the reduced crew requirements. However, community sources have reported 45-day lay-off notices were handed out at the end of May.

“These ships are more efficient than the older vessels they are replacing, so they require fewer crew,” BC Ferries confirmed in a statement.

Dan Kimmerly with the BC Ferry and Marine Workers’ Union is concerned that this reduced crew is insufficient to deal with emergencies, as well as basic maintenance.

RELATED: BC Ferries losing up to $1.5 million each day as pandemic tanks ridership

The union filed a request June 22 for judicial review against Transport Canada’s decision, which approved the five-crew plan, Kimmerly said.

“The evidence we have, including comments and concerns raised by vessel crew and excluded management, indicates five crew is not adequate to carry out regular routine work, cleaning, and maintenance, let alone respond to an emergency,” he stated via email.

“Our union has had many direct and deeply concerning conversations with senior personnel who are worried there is not enough crew to sail the vessel safely. BC Ferries management is fully aware there is not enough crew to perform the regular routine maintenance on the run. We are at a loss for how Transport Canada issued a minimum safe manning certificate of five in view of their own regulations.”

The Island Aurora connects small island communities Sointula and Alert Bay to Vancouver Island at Port McNeill.

The Island Discovery runs between Powell River and Texada Island. The boats that have been replaced were nearly 50 years old.

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