New rules for small ferries

Under the new rules, the MV Quinsam, which runs between Nanaimo and Gabriola Island, lost 25 per cent of its capacity.

Under the new rules, the MV Quinsam, which runs between Nanaimo and Gabriola Island, lost 25 per cent of its capacity.

Transport Canada has tightened rules on minimum staffing levels for smaller B.C. Ferries vessels, raising fears of hefty fare increases and longer lineups.

New federal marine personnel regulations that took effect Jan. 1 mean B.C. Ferries must cut smaller vessels’ passenger capacity or increase the number of crew members to meet personnel requirements to handle emergencies.

Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall said the rules mean B.C. Ferries will have to lower passenger counts on some small vessels. “Alternatively we could increase crew counts, but that would increase the cost, which we do have to pass on to passengers,” she said, adding that 90 per cent of sailings carry fewer than 30 passengers.

Marshall said B.C. Ferries would try to plan for heavy traffic by boosting crews in advance. But if traffic peaks unexpectedly, passengers would face longer waits.

Under the new rules, the MV Quinsam, which runs between Nanaimo and Gabriola Island, lost 25 per cent of its capacity.

When the Quinsam, now out of service for its annual refit, returns, its capacity will be reduced to 293 people, with the vessel’s present crew of seven. With eight crew, it could carry 392 passengers.

Andre Lemieux, Gabriola chairman of B.C. Ferries’ 12-member ferry advisory committee, worries increasing crew size will result in stiff fare increases on top of an eight per cent hike expected April 1. “What it will be I don’t know but it will be on top and it’s not acceptable,” Lemieux said.

Thirteen other vessels are also affected, including the Mill Bay and Kuper Island ferries, the Skeena Queen from Swartz Bay to Saltspring Island and the Mayne Queen, on which passenger levels have been cut 50 per cent.

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