By Alex Rinfret–The BC Ferry Commission is hiring a consultant to tell it whether BC Ferries has tried hard enough to find a replacement vessel for the Queen of the North.
Ferry commissioner Martin Crilly posted a request for proposals Friday (June 2) on the ferry commission website for the consultant.
The commission two weeks ago authorized BC Ferries to offer reduced summer service on the northern routes, but that authorization is good only until July 16. (The commission is an independent office the provincial government set up two years ago when it turned BC Ferries into a quasi-private company. It is supposed to oversee ferry operations – for example, it considers applications from BC Ferries for things like fuel surcharges.)
Mr. Crilly said the commission will decide whether to extend that authorization after hearing from the consultant. If the consultant finds that BC Ferries’ search for a vessel has been thorough, and that a suitable replacement will not be available soon, the authorization will be extended. Part of the consultant’s task will be to recommend a period for the extension, based on his or her findings.
It’s not clear what would happen if the consultant finds that BC Ferries hasn’t been working hard enough on the search. It is also not clear what would happen if the commission refused to extend the authorization for reduced service, since BC Ferries has already announced that it can’t find a second vessel any time soon and that it will serve the northern routes with a reduced schedule until the end of the summer season on Sept. 30.
Mr. Crilly said it was necessary to hire a consultant because he wants to hear from someone who is an expert in shipping and world markets for vessels before green-lighting the reduced schedule.
“It is a legal requirement if they want to reduce service they need to have the commission’s permission,” Mr. Crilly told the Observer. “We didn’t want to just rubber stamp this. We don’t take everything BC Ferries says as being automatically correct.”
The consultant will be expected to start work by June 19 and complete a report by July 7, with the task expected to take a maximum of 10 days. Mr. Crilly said BC Ferries is required to provide the consultant with all relevant records, and make members of the search team available for meetings with the consultant.
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