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Another busy day on B.C. Ferries, with waits between Duke Point, Tsawwassen

B.C. Ferries' reservation system went offline Monday, and travellers faced waits of up to 12 hours for ferry sailings between Duke Point on Vancouver Island and Tsawwassen on the mainland.
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Travellers wanting to take the ferry from Duke Point in Nanaimo faced long waits on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

B.C. Ferries staff were closely monitoring the system’s reservation system Tuesday after it went out of service twice on Monday during one of the busiest times of the year.

Passengers on Monday waits of up to 12 hours to sail on the Tsawwassen-Duke Point route and the reservation system crashed twice in the afternoon. It was restored late that night, a B.C. Ferries official said.

B.C. Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall said: “The recent issues customers experienced with the website was created by a problem with one of our backend systems. 

“This had a knock-on effect on our website and impacted some customers when they were searching or booking sailings.” 

Information technology staff were “working hard to ensure website stability during our peak summer travel period,” she said. 

B.C. Ferries described Monday's situation as “peak travel.”

As of 8 a.m. Monday, B.C. Ferries was selling tickets for the 8:15 p.m. sailing out of Tsawwassen. By 1 p.m., there was space only on the 10:45 p.m. sailing, and two Tuesday morning sailings, at 7:45 and 10:15, were fully booked.

In the other direction, all morning and afternoon sailings out of Duke Point to Tsawwassen were full as of mid-morning. By 1 p.m., the 8:15 p.m. sailing was nearly full, with just eight per cent of its deck space available.

Tuesday is shaping up to be another busy day, with sailings on the Tsawwassen-Duke Point route already full for much of the day by mid-morning. By 10:45 a.m., B.C. Ferries was ticketing for the 5:45 p.m. sailing out of Tsawwassen as the next two sailings were booked.

Going the other direction, ferries are ticketing for the 3:15 p.m. sailing out of Duke Point.

B.C. Ferries notes that there are other ferries running between the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. Passengers can go between Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver and Departure Bay in Nanaimo, and Swartz Bay in Greater Victoria and Tsawwassen.

The province is in the peak of its tourist season, when ferry travel is typically high, and B.C. Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall said Monday there is heavy traffic on all of the major routes. “It’s summertime and we expect this will continue through Labour Day as people take their summer holidays,” she said.

Traffic on the other two main routes between Vancouver Island and the mainland was also busy on Monday, with B.C. Ferries ticketing for the 8 p.m. Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay sailing shortly after 4:30 p.m. However, while several sailings sold out, travellers on those routes didn't face the same long waits. 

“Keep in mind, the Duke Point route sailings are every two and a half hours," Marshall said, "so if there is a sailing wait, a customer waits longer than they would on the Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay route, where sailings are every hour.”

Eric McNeely, B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers Union president, said passengers are moving their travelling habits, favouring Fridays and Mondays rather than the weekends.

“The reservation system in general is fraught with some challenges but it is certainly even harder when it is not working properly,” he said.

Anyone planning to sail is advised to check for updates on B.C. Ferries’ Twitter page and under current conditions on B.C. Ferries’ website.

Meanwhile, a crew shortage on the Tsawwassen-Southern Gulf Islands route meant that grilled food was not served Monday, and the Kahloke ferry was held in dock at Denman Island because it was short one crew member. A replacement was found, B.C. Ferries said.

A specific number of crew members, with specific skills, is required for every vessel under Transport Canada rules. 

cjwilson@timescolonist.com