Kwuna squeeze over

  • Feb. 25, 2009 5:00 a.m.

Transport Canada has given BC Ferries permission to continue carrying up to 80 passengers on the Kwuna’s afternoon sailings, says Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall, alleviating worries that plane passengers would be left behind. According to new Transport Canada regulations which came into effect Jan. 1, the Kwuna can carry only 36 passengers and 18 vehicles – a sharp reduction from the 150 passengers and 26 vehicles it was previously allowed. Transport Canada gave BC Ferries a two-month exemption allowing it to carry up to 80 passengers between 1 pm and 6 pm. Last week, that exemption was extended indefinitely, Ms Marshall said. BC Ferries asked for the extension because it was concerned that passengers travelling to Sandspit to catch the daily flight to Vancouver would be left behind on Graham Island if the Kwuna was limited to carrying only 36 people, she said. “We wanted to make sure it wasn’t a problem for our customers,” Ms Marshall said. Meanwhile, BC Ferries is asking Transport Canada to review how the new regulations are applied to the Kwuna. Ms Marshall said the Kwuna is classified as a “class A” vessel under the new regulations, which limits it to carrying 36 passengers with four crew members. If the Kwuna were just 1.6 metres shorter, it would be classified as a “class B” vessel and could carry up to 145 passengers with four crew members, she said. Other ships in the BC Ferries fleet have also had their passenger and vehicle capacities reduced by the new regulations, but none as severely as the Kwuna. MLA Gary Coons and MP Nathan Cullen sent joint letters last week complaining about the Kwuna situation to the federal and provincial governments, and to BC Ferries chief executive David Hahn. Mr. Coons and Mr. Cullen said that BC Ferries did not consult with its local advisory committee about how the regulations would affect islanders, despite having more than 18 months notice. “Route 26, Skidegate Landing-Alliford Bay, is a perfect example of how this lack of consultation has resulted in hindered access to essential services such as school, medical services, grocery and supplies, air travel and postal services,” they wrote.

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