Sandspit calls for later sailings

Regional district directors have asked BC Ferries to restore evening sailings between Skidegate and Sandspit.

BC Ferries is being asked to split shifts on the Skidegate-Alliford Bay ferry so it can run more evening sailings.

Currently, the last sailing to Alliford Bay leaves Skidegate at 6:10 p.m., making it hard for Sandspit residents to join evening events on Graham Island.

Bill Beldessi lives in Sandspit and represents the area as an elected director with the Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional District.

“You should see what I’ve spent on hotels in the last year,” said Beldessi, who often stays overnight on Graham Island for evening meetings.

Beldessi doubts BC Ferries will be able to split shifts using its current crew schedule, which has two crews working 12-hour days—the longest shift allowed under federal safety regulations.

“The only way to fix it is to go back to the old schedule,” he said, which had two crews working two eight-hour shifts.

Under the old schedule, the early shift started at 7 a.m., and the later shift started at 3 p.m. The last ferry to Alliford Bay left Skidegate around 10:30 p.m.

The SQCRD has asked B.C. Transport Minister Todd Stone to look at the issue, and invited Premier Christy Clark to visit Haida Gwaii to get a firsthand sense of the ferry service issues, including the impact of reduced winter sailings between Skidegate and Prince Rupert.

“With all the construction on island—last year it was highways, this year it’s the hospital—they’ve had tractor trailers backed up all the way to Prince George,” said Beldessi, adding that passenger numbers alone are not enough to establish demand.

Minister Stone visited Haida Gwaii last week, but in a letter to the SQCRD he said any scheduling discussions would have to happen together with BC Ferries.

Deborah Marshall, a BC Ferries spokesperson, said BC Ferries is open to schedule adjustments, but warned any changes outside the 12-hour shift window would be difficult.

“A split shift might be difficult because the crew needs downtime to be able to rest,” she said.