Passengers wait inside the water taxi hired by BC Ferries to take them to Nanaimo at 5:15am on Monday, November 15 while the MV Quinsam sits in dock until the 7:35 sailing.

Derek Kilbourn photo

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

The Gabriola ferry will be operating sailings only between 7:35am and 6:26pm until further notice.

That according to BC Ferries, who sent out a Service Notice on Wednesday, November 17 – having operated just that one day on the regular schedule.

BC Ferries says this reduction in service is due to a staffing issue, and the modified schedule will be operating until further notice.

An unknown number of crew members assigned to the Quinsam have not received their COVID-19 vaccinations.

As of Nov. 15, 2021, under a Transport Canada interim Order, all crew working on board the Quinsam and all other BC Ferries vessels must have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. As of Jan. 24, 2022, crew will be required to have had two doses.

The four sailings prior to 7:35am, as well as all sailings after 6:25pm have been replaced with water taxi service. The taxi holds 10 people.

The modified schedule released by BC Ferries did not include any indication of sailings which would be reserved for Dangerous Goods – normally these vehicles come over to Gabriola on the 10:45am sailing on Wednesdays, and return to Nanaimo on the 5:50pm on Wednesdays.

Darin Guenette from BC Ferries said staff is still working out when those DG sailings would now take place within the modified schedule.

Beginning on January 24, 2022, Transport Canada will require that every person (excluding passengers) on board the vessel is fully vaccinated.

The Interim Order came from the Federal Minister of Transport on October 30, 2021, and applies to the Authorized Representatives of any Canadian vessel which operates with 12 or more crew members, or which is part of a fleet which contains at least one vessel which operates with 12 or more crew members, as well as the Authorized Representatives of any foreign or domestic non-essential passenger vessels on voyages of 24 hours or more.

For passengers on non-essential passenger vessels, such as cruise ships, on voyages of 24 hours or more, Transport Canada will be issuing requirements on November 30, 2021 to support the resumption of the Canadian cruise season in 2022.

Transport Canada requires ship-based employees to be fully vaccinated by January 24, 2022. The remainder of BC Ferries employees will be required to be fully vaccinated by February 28, 2022. Some exemptions apply. Employees who do not comply with the policy will be placed on leave without pay.”

Guenette wrote that BC Ferries supports, encourages and requires COVID-19 vaccination for all employees as it limits the risk of spreading COVID-19, maintains access to critical health care services for those in need, and protects employees and passengers against future outbreaks.

“We believe implementing a mandatory vaccination policy for all employees is the right thing to do to protect everyone who works for, or travels with, BC Ferries. BC Ferries’ policy and decision aligns with other transit agencies in British Columbia. BC Ferries’ COVID-19 Vaccination Policy complies with the guidelines and directives set by the federal government, provincial government and provincial health authority.”

The Interim Order also provides that an operator of an essential passenger vessel or ferry vessel must:

“Reduce by 50% the maximum number of passengers that are carried on-board (conduct half-load voyages); OR

“If no reduction in passengers, implement alternative practices to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, consistent with guidance put forward by the local health authority for the region in which the vessel is operating.”

There is no requirement for passengers on board BC Ferries to be vaccinated.

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