In a decision that is not likely to surprise anyone, BC Ferry Commissioner Martin Crilly announced Monday that he is allowing BC Ferries to operate the northern routes on a reduced schedule for the rest of the summer.
That schedule has the Queen of Prince Rupert making round trips between the Charlottes and Rupert an average of three times a week, rather than the usual summer service of six times a week. BC Ferries decreased the service because it must serve both the islands and the Inside Passage routes with one ferry due the loss of the Queen of the North in March.
Mr. Crilly originally gave the green light to the summer service reduction in May, but said his authorization would expire July 17. He said he would extend it only if he was convinced that BC Ferries had tried hard enough to find a replacement vessel for the Queen of the North.
On Monday, he told the Observer the company has been trying, and consequently he has extended the authorization for reduced service until Sept. 30.
“We’ve satisfied ourselves that their search has been thorough,” he said.
Mr. Crilly hired a consulting firm from Seattle to evaluate BC Ferries’ efforts. The firm wrote a report which Mr. Crilly took into account in allowing the diminished service to continue. (The Observer has asked for a copy of the report, but Mr. Crilly has not yet made up his mind about whether to release it.)
Although BC Ferries has not yet made an announcement about a replacement vessel, the Ferry Commission website contains information that the company has indeed found a suitable used vessel, available for immediate purchase. As of July 17, BC Ferries was in final negotiations for the ferry.
The cost of this vessel will be taken into account when fares are set for BC Ferries’ second performance term, which starts on April 1, 2008. BC Ferries has also speeded up plans to acquire two new vessels to replace the Queen of Prince Rupert and the Queen of Chilliwack, and the cost of these ships may also be added to the northern route fare levels. The QPR had been scheduled to be replaced in 2009, and the Queen of Chilliwack in 2011. The new schedule calls for the ferries to be replaced as soon as possible.
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