Kwuna restrictions will affect field trips, soccer season and tourist travel

  • Jan. 12, 2009 3:00 p.m.

By Heather Ramsay-So much for field trips, track meets in Sandspit and forget about getting back and forth to the airport in a timely manner come summer, say islanders, as the impacts of the new safe manning regulations for the Kwuna start to sink in. “The true crunch will come in the summer with the increased tourist travel on the airport sailings,” said Laurence Wilkins of Eagle Transit. This is the slow time of the year for airport travel, he said. But in busy times, the 3:40 pm sailing of the Kwuna regularly leaves vehicles behind. Transport Canada’s safe manning regulations state that no more than 36 passengers and 18 vehicles can travel on the Kwuna at one time. Before the change, 26 vehicles and 150 passengers were allowed aboard. BC Ferries has received a two-month reprieve from the regulations, which took effect on Jan. 1, allowing 80 passengers for now, but that period ends at the beginning of March. “Our burgeoning tourist trade can ill-afford these travel restrictions,” Mr. Wilkins said. One tour bus full of visitors could hold as many as 25 people, leaving space for only 11 other people. And with airplanes coming in daily with a maximum of 50 passengers, the numbers don’t add up. School District No. 50 secretary-treasurer Ken Campbell said the change in capacity will be an issue for field trips and soccer games too. He said weekend soccer trips usually see 50 students heading to Sandspit and around 30 students at a time head to the Mount Moresby Adventure Camp for special trips. “We’re not the only people on the ferry,” he said, so likely some will have to sit and wait for the next ferry. “Is it a hassle? Absolutely,” he said. Boyd Goeson, who coordinates the soccer program in Port Clements, which runs from March to June, says coming back from Sandspit will be the biggest hassle. A lot of parents take their own vehicles in order to shop around and spend the day in Sandspit, something that helps the local economy. He said with games ending around the same time as people are trying to get the 3:40 pm airport ferry, a lot more people will be left behind. “It’s going to make more people want to fly out of Masset,” he said. Audrey Putterill, at A.L. Mathers in Sandspit, is worried about what this change means for the track meet planned for June at the school. She said at least 80 or 90 children would normally come over on one ferry and another 40 or so on another. “That’s going to have a big impact as far as schools are concerned,” she said. BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall has stated that the corporation does not intend to increase the crew level to five in order to allow the Kwuna to take on more passengers. But the burning question on everyone’s mind is why the Kwuna would be unsafe with more than 36 passengers and four crew members – and why the change must be made. Transport Canada has not been able to answer these questions with any degree of detail. The Observer was directed to a backgrounder that states: “Minimum manning levels are based on number of people required to safely operate the vessel while responding to an emergency.” The minimum safe manning levels are set out in a Safe Manning Document issued by Transport Canada based on an evaluation of the vessel.