BC Ferries’ decision to cancel phone service at the Skidegate terminal has left some islanders frustrated and confused.
Kristi Farrell and her husband John live both in Queen Charlotte and Prince Rupert and therefore travel back and forth on the marine highway regularly. They know only too well how often the ferry is off-schedule, especially in the winter.
On Feb. 7, she was in Prince Rupert and expected her husband to arrive on the ferry at 10 pm.
But when she called just after 10 pm to see if the ferry was on schedule, she was transferred to the main BC Ferries line with a message saying the office was closed.
“I thought at least when the ferry is due in you could get someone at the terminal,” said Mrs. Farrell.
“How does that work for people who need to be picked up?” she said. “I have a baby in bed, am I supposed to rouse her up and go see if there ferry is there?”
The ferry ended up being about half an hour late, but Mrs. Farrell wasn’t happy that she wasn’t able to confirm the boat’s arrival time. Prince Rupert terminal may be a short drive from town, but those who need to come from Masset or even Tlell to pick up a passenger on the 6 am ferry arriving in Skidegate may not be able to find out anything about the arrival of the boat until the BC Ferries office opens at 7 am, an hour after the boat was expected.
Maureen Benoit, secretary at Queen Charlotte Secondary, said she anticipates this will eventually become a concern.
She said islanders may find out how inconvenient the lack of local phone numbers are early in the morning this Monday, when parents will be arriving to pick up the young basketball players after a weekend away.
The ferry is scheduled to leave Prince Rupert on Sunday night at 11 pm, an hour after the BC Ferries toll-free number shuts for the night. It is scheduled to arrive in Skidegate at 6 am.
The latest information about schedules used to be provided by local staff on a recording which islanders would hear when they dialed the Skidegate terminal. Now the service notices are prepared through the central reservation line.
Deborah Marshall at BC Ferries said the company will have someone on-call to update the phone line and website in the middle of the night if necessary. If the ferry will be late, the captain is to make that call, she says.
When asked if a notice would be made available if the ship is only half an hour late, Ms Marshall said she would look into the matter. She did not respond in time for our web deadline.
Ms Benoit says another issue is that there is no way to get in touch with students or teachers who are at the terminal two hours in advance waiting to leave. Sometimes a message needs to be relayed and the school or parents have been able to do so by calling the local terminal number. Now someone has to drive out to the terminal to give a message.
“That is fine for Queen Charlotte students and parents,” she said, but those in Masset, Port Clements or other communities are out of luck.
“The potential for disaster is there for sure,” she said.
Mrs. Farrell said she called the toll free number the day after her husband arrived and talked with a woman who said a notice would have been left on the line if the ferry was going to be late. When Mrs. Farrell told her there hadn’t been, the woman suggested she write a letter.
Queen Charlotte mayor Carol Kulesha said at a Feb. 12 council meeting that she would like to hear from anyone who is experiencing problems with the new phone system. She said the removal of a local telephone number was not discussed at the BC Ferries Advisory Committee, on which she has a seat.
Her next meeting with the committee is March 8 and she asks people to contact her at the village of Queen Charlotte office with any concerns before then.
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