BC Ferries

Slow ferry fumble

Judging by the increases in BC Ferries’ executive compensation, I must be missing something. Fares are up and service is down. Ridership has declined after years of unbroken growth. Something else must be going very well to justify giant raises and bonuses for head office folks. They wouldn’t give themselves increments, just because they can.

Perhaps, the high stepping executives did an extraordinary job of improving personnel relations, the corporation’s long standing Gordian knot. Apparently not. No, it must be shrewd management of capital spending. You know, modernizing the fleet, buying new super efficient ships, so advanced they could not be built in BC. No home-built ferry fiascos for these bonus babies.

I thought a driving trip to Victoria this week would allow review of a German built ferry, since Coastal Celebration serves Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay. Trouble is, we had to depart Tuesday or Wednesday, both days that the new ship sits at the dock while 15 year old Spirit class vessels handle traffic.

So, I thought, maybe other days, the Coastal Celebration works a little harder. After all, it is the third and newest Coastal class ferry. I checked the website and found this schedule for the ship:

  • Monday – 10 am & 2 pm
  • Tuesday – no sailings
  • Wednesday – no sailings
  • Thursday – 10 am
  • Friday – 10 am & 2 pm & 6 pm
  • Saturday – 10 am & 2 pm
  • Sunday – 2 pm & 6 pm

The ship makes ten back and forth crossings in a week. During the same time, the two older Spirit class vessels each make 28 round trips on the same route, almost three times the utilization. Operating cost disadvantages seem the most likely explanation for leaving a near-new ship tied up in port while old reliables ply the same waters.

The Tyee reported some time ago that fuel efficiency was a problem on the new German vessels and that employees had taken to calling them the “Gas Guzzlers.”

. . . B.C. Ferries fuel-use charts show that on some routes the new vessels used as much on average as 52 per cent more fuel than older vessels. We later noted the company planned to save fuel by having captains and crews learn to drive the ships better, following more direct routes, and changing light bulbs.

The new ferries have had various problems since arriving in B.C., the most serious of which include high fuel consumption, heavy vibrations and noise while docked at the terminals. The problems may all be linked to a design flaw that has their propellers sitting too high in the water.

Of course, this is an issue that BC Ferries management does not care to discuss in public, nor are they required to do so under its present status as a private company owned by the public.

Categories: BC Ferries, The Tyee

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