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North Coast MLA addresses BC Ferries cancellations

Ferry cancelled from Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii for week of April 24 to April 29
Sailings of BC Ferries Northern Adventure from Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii have been cancelled for the week of April 24 to 29, due to ferry staff contracting COVID-19, said a company representative. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

Food and freight will be shipped to Haida Gwaii from Prince Rupert despite the BC Ferries passenger cancellation to the archipelago, during the week of April 24 to 29, Jennifer Rice, North Coast MLA stated, on April 26.

The BC Ferries service between the two locations was cancelled starting with the 10 p.m. sailing from Prince Rupert on April 24, due to staff illness.

“We have had to cancel some sailings up north due to crew illness. A number of employees have tested positive for COVID-19,” Deborah Marshall, executive director of public affairs for BC Ferries told The Northern View in an email.

Rice addressed escalating concerns being voiced by constituents about the cancellations which are expected until at least April 29 and have left some passengers stranded and food supply issues to Haida Gwaii.

“I and my staff have been in contact with BC Ferries. We know that the Sunday, Monday, and Thursday, Friday round trip sailings have been cancelled … BC Ferries makes decisions on how cancellations are handled based on affecting as few passengers as possible. This is why people are not ‘bumped’ from later sailings to accommodate those who had sailings cancelled,” she said.

Marshall confirmed the ferry company has temporarily suspended regular service until Friday morning.

“We will continue to assess the crew,” she said. “In the meantime, customers are being asked to keep receipts for expenses they incur as a result of the sailing cancellations and send them in to us.”

Rice explained that the ferry service is “looking at” running a freight-only round trip service tonight (April 26) and tomorrow as there may be enough staff to sail without passengers.

To alleviate food and supply shortages in Haida Gwaii, BC Ferries will be making a round trip cargo run by barge service to and from the islands for the evening of April 27 and the morning of April 28, Rice said.

“We will be making a cargo run from Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii to transport drop trailers, groceries and hostled vehicles,” Marshall said.

“They are also looking at options for charter flights if a plane and crew are available from Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii,” Rice said. “Ideally, customers travelling on TAPS would be prioritized.”

The Port Hardy route is also cancelled until April 28, Rice said. The next available sailing on that route is Friday at 11 a.m. There is still a risk of cancellation if more crew fall ill, the MLA stated.

“I continue to advocate for my constituents regarding this, and will provide updates as soon as possible when more information is confirmed. My sincerest sympathies to those affected by these crewing issues,” Rice said adding that tea and coffee will be served in her constituency office on the morning of April 27 if people need assistance.

BC Ferry cancellations as listed on their website state:

“Due to a crewing issue on the Northern Adventure, the following sailings between April 24-28 have been cancelled:

Sunday, April 24, 10 p.m. departing Prince Rupert

Monday, April 25, 10 a.m. departing Skidegate

Monday, April 25, 10 p.m. departing Prince Rupert

Tuesday, April 26, 10 a.m. departing Skidegate

Tuesday, April 26, 8 p.m. departing Prince Rupert

Wednesday, April 27, 7:30 a.m. departing Bella Bella

Wednesday, April 27, 5:15 p.m. departing Port Hardy

Thursday, April 28, 12:30 a.m. departing Bella Bella

We require a specific number of crew members on board the vessel to ensure the safety of our passengers in the unlikely event of an emergency and to comply with Transport Canada regulations. We will continue to provide updates as soon as they become available.

Our Customer Service Centre will contact customers with bookings on these cancelled sailings to let them know their booking must be cancelled and we will refund fees and/or fares.”

 K-J Millar | Editor and Multimedia Journalist 
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