Ferry committee blog & our letter to BCFerries

The ferry committee members are Shelley Garside (chair), Sue Kristinsson, Andrew Fall, Tim Peterson, Ezra Auerbach, Jana Vannan and Peter Johnston.

Letters are posted in chronological order. There are now 3 letters, Sept 1 at the top, then Oct 12 and Nov 21 at the bottom.

 

September 1

Brian Anderson
Vice President, Strategy & Community Engagement
BC Ferries., Suite 500- 1321 Blanshard Street, Victoria, BC, V8W 0B7
September 1, 2023

Subject: Urgent Concerns Regarding Ferry Service Contract - Lasqueti Island Route 55

Dear Mr. Anderson

I am writing on behalf of the LCA Ferry Committee (Lasqueti Island) to bring to your attention some pressing concerns related to the ferry service contract for Ferry Services on Lasqueti Island, Route 55.

Our committee has been closely monitoring the ferry service provided by Western Pacific
Marine (WPM) and, we find ourselves increasingly concerned about the declining quality of
service that has become evident over time, and in particular over the past several months. WPM has not only fallen short of meeting several crucial terms outlined in its contract with B.C. Ferries; these lapses have had a noticeable impact on our community's experience. As the sole public transportation link to and from Lasqueti Island, the vital role of the ferry service cannot be overstated, especially for obtaining essential supplies such as food and home necessities, prescriptions and medications, access to healthcare services, supporting economic activity, and ensuring the convenience of residents and visitors alike.

At the forefront of our concerns is the matter of communication. WPM's inconsistent service and subpar communications with travellers are causing unnecessary passenger frustrations and anxiety. The lack of adherence to the terms and conditions outlined in the contract has led to reduced passenger capacity, erratic service schedules, and insufficient communication channels. In light of these challenges, we respectfully request that B.C. Ferries take necessary actions to ensure WPM's compliance with their contractual obligations.
 
Our priorities revolve around restoring a reliable service capable of accommodating 60
passengers per trip and ensuring that WPM's staff fully comprehend their responsibilities in
maintaining a clearly defined service standard, following the Schedule of Service in the contract, and ensuring that WPM's staff fully comprehend their responsibilities in maintaining a clearly defined service standard. The discrepancies between the contract and the provided service have raised significant concerns, including:

1. Personnel and Equipment: WPM has not consistently provided the personnel and equipment as stipulated in the contract terms.

2. Vessel Capacity: The requirement to operate vessels with a capacity of 60 passengers has not been consistently met.

3. Communication Obligations: WPM has not consistently fulfilled its obligation to inform the
community about schedules and schedule changes at the local harbours and through  notices and advertisements in both electronic media, community notice boards and local publications.

4. Annual Public Meetings: WPM has not held the required annual public meetings as outlined in the contract.

5. Electronic Pass System Discussion: The discussion and implementation of an online pass
system has not been meaningfully addressed.

To be clear, it is crucial that the challenges faced by the contractor do not adversely impact the quality of service our community relies upon. The importance of the company's obligation to uphold open and transparent communication cannot be emphasized enough. It is not merely a contractual formality but a fundamental cornerstone of reliability within our community.

During the summer, recognizing the critical need for improved communication and crew support, our community committee proactively intervened to assist WPM in fulfilling their duties. We stepped in to bridge the gaps and ensure that the essential flow of information and passenger assistance continued despite the challenges faced by the contractor at that time.

However, it is crucial to clarify that our committee's intervention was a temporary and supportive measure, born out of a genuine desire to maintain the level of service our community deserves. Our expectation, and indeed, our rightful expectation, is that WPM will take up these responsibilities once more as part of their contractual commitment. The onus lies squarely with WPM to deliver on their obligations to the community, including maintaining open lines of communication, providing adequate crew support, and upholding the standards set forth in the contract.

Additionally, there are concerns within our community regarding certain behaviours and
operational changes that have come to our attention. We have received concerning reports of incidents that have caused consternation to passengers and crew members. These incidents have been a source of angst among the community members who rely on the ferry service for their travel needs. While we understand that challenges can arise in the course of service, our community values the safety and well-being of all passengers and aims for a harmonious and pleasant travel experience.

Furthermore, there have been adjustments to procedures related to loading, unloading, and
travel requirements that have been implemented without prior notice. These changes have led to extreme inconvenience for passengers. We believe that clear communication and
cooperation between all parties involved are essential to ensuring that these operational
changes are carried out smoothly and considerately.

While we understand the industry-wide challenges pertaining to staffing, we are open to
reasonable compromises that stem from the constraints of crewing. However, we firmly believe that immediate measures are necessary to mitigate the inconsistent service. To this end, we propose the following actions:

1. Commitment to consistent use of boarding passes, posting of the runs for which they will be used, and the time when they will be available to the public.

2. Timely Communication: Ensure timely notifications of schedule changes and passenger load capacity updates.

3. Additional Sailings: Provide sufficient extra sailings to accommodate the normal daily
passenger capacity when one or more runs have been reduced below fifty-nine.

4. A meeting with the Lasqueti Island community, BC Ferries and WPM be scheduled as soon as possible, and that these meetings be scheduled annually as per the contract.

5. That a meaningful dialogue regarding the use of electronic passes take place as soon as
possible.

6. Commitment to notify the community, in detail, of any operational changes in advance of the changes being implemented.

The impact of the contract violations on Lasqueti Ferry ridership is undeniable, prompting our committee to urge the swift implementation of the aforementioned measures.

We have maintained a positive and constructive relationship with the contractor for four
decades, and we are committed to working together to address these concerns and restore a service that aligns with our community's expectations. Furthermore, we believe that by
addressing these issues collaboratively, we can ensure that the ferry service continues to be a reliable means of transportation for all passengers.

In light of the urgency of these matters, we kindly request your immediate attention and
response. The Ferry Committee looks forward to a prompt resolution and improved service for our community.

Sincerely,
Shelley Garside
Chair, LCA Ferry Committee

Cc: Nicolas Jimenez, Rob Flemming, Kaye Krishna, Adam Walker
 

 

October 12, 2023

Brian Anderson
Vice President, Strategy & Community Engagement
BC Ferries., Suite 500- 1321 Blanshard Street, Victoria, BC, V8W 0B7

Subject: Request for Contract Renewal Considerations for Lasqueti Island Ferry Service (Route 55)

Dear Mr Anderson,

The LCA Ferry Committee (Lasqueti Island) wishes to address the approaching contract
expiration between Western Pacific Marine (WPM) and B.C. Ferries Inc. for operating the
Lasqueti Island Ferry Service (Route 55), expiring in March 2024. We are aware of ongoing or upcoming negotiations for contract renewal and strongly urge that a competitive bidding process by B.C. Ferries takes place. If this is not possible, we request that any contract extension be limited to a maximum of one year. Additionally, we recommend reinforcing contract terms to address non-compliance, and customer satisfaction issues.

Our concerns arise from the noticeable decline in the quality of ferry service provided by WPM. Several contract violations have been noted, as previously communicated in our letter dated September 1, 2023. These violations include deviations from the schedule, inadequate communication of schedule changes, lack of community engagement, ad hoc modifications to freight carriage policies and rates, inadequate crew for the contracted passenger count, and prolonged use of a backup vessel with insufficient passenger capacity. Furthermore, recent accidents and equipment failures have led to prolonged passenger stranding without alternative transportation options like water taxi services, resulting in heightened passenger anxiety and increased travel costs.

Regrettably, Western Pacific Marine has not faced any meaningful consequences for failing to meet contractual obligations. We urge that forthcoming contracts, whether renewed or new, include clear, enforceable penalties for contractual non-compliance. Additionally, we propose the inclusion of annual customer satisfaction surveys as a necessary component, outlining defined customer satisfaction expectations.

Moreover, we have been informed of further restrictions imposed by Transport Canada on the Centurion VII, the passenger ferry currently used by WPM for Lasqueti Island. These restrictions limit the vessel's ability to sail in weather conditions exceeding thirty-two knots and 2 metre swells, resulting in reduced sailings. This means that there will be even fewer runs available in an already extremely limited number of runs scheduled. This is likely to cause a good deal of hardship to the residents who must seek medical care, food and other supplies from Vancouver Island. Clearly, the vessel is no longer meeting the needs of route 55.

While Western Pacific Marine has historically provided adequate ferry service, they currently are not. The current circumstances necessitate exploring alternative options. We ask that B.C. Ferries promptly consider competitive bidding for contract renewal and recommend a one-year maximum extension if it is deemed necessary to extend the existing WPM contract. This would ensure some service stability in the interim, allowing ample time to initiate Requests for Proposals and formal bidding procedures.

Community engagement needs to be fundamental in all contract negotiations, and we urge
conducting these consultations in a substantive and inclusive manner before finalizing new
contractual arrangements.

We look forward to your prompt response to these urgent matters.

Sincerely,
Shelley Garside, Chair, LCA Ferry Committee

Cc: Nicolas Jimenez, Rob Flemming, Kaye Krishna, Adam Walker

 

 

Hon. R. Fleming
Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure
PO Box 9055 Stn. Prov. Government
Victoria, BC. V8W 9E2

November 21, 2023

Dear Minister Fleming,

I am writing to express a matter of great concern regarding the recent interactions, or rather  the lack thereof, between Lasqueti Island and the representatives of B.C. Ferries, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI), and Western Pacific Marine (WPM) Contrary to your assertions during Question Period, November 1, 2023, to MLA Adam Walker, there have been no visits to Lasqueti Island by BC Ferries or MOTI, and to our dismay, no one from either organization has made contact or replied to correspondence from the Lasqueti Island Ferry Committee.

In our most recent correspondence to Brian Anderson of BC Ferries, dated October 12, 2023, to which you were cc’d, the Ferry Committee specifically requested that the current contract for Route 55, Lasqueti Island, go out for tender. Failing this as a possibility due to practical reasons, we asked that any renewals be limited to a period of one year, so that the route could go out for tender as quickly as possible. We also requested that there be clear, strict and enforceable penalties added to the contract in addition to annual performance reviews tied to customer satisfaction surveys, outlining customer service expectations. Many of the reasons for this request, including multiple contract violations, are made clear in our previous letters.

Lasqueti Island, as you are well aware, heavily relies on the ferry service provided by B.C.
Ferries/Western Pacific Marine as a vital link. This service plays an essential role in the daily
lives of our residents, enabling access to medical appointments, work, food and supplies.
However, the reliability of this essential service has now become a persistent concern for our community, one that we had hoped would be addressed through ongoing communication with the responsible authorities.

Four years ago, a commitment was made by the government to ensure that the people of
Lasqueti Island would be consulted annually to ensure that the ferry service meets their needs, and that contractual agreements are being adhered to. This commitment, at the date of this writing, remains unfulfilled. It is disheartening to note that despite repeated attempts to engage with representatives of B.C. Ferries and MOTI, our correspondence outlining our concerns regarding inadequate service and breach of contract terms, have gone completely
unacknowledged and unanswered.

Recent incidents, including the reported challenges between staff and island residents that led to police involvement, highlight the urgency of resolving issues related to the island ferry
service. The service to Lasqueti Island has deteriorated to the worst it has been in forty years. The promise of a representative from Western Pacific Marine and B.C. Ferries to hold a community meeting o.n Lasqueti Island at least once a year to listen to the concerns of
islanders can be found in the current contract in Schedule G. Regrettably, this contract
requirement, in addition to a whole litany of others, remains unfulfilled, leaving Lasqueti
Islanders with a sense of isolation, and exclusion from consideration in the decision-making
process.

As we approach the negotiation of the upcoming contract, it is of utmost importance that the voices and input of Lasqueti Islanders are heard and considered. We seek assurance that these concerns and issues are taken into account to ensure that the ferry service becomes more reliable and responsive to the needs of our community.

Therefore, I respectfully request your immediate attention and action on this matter. It is  crucial that a representative from MOTI and B.C. Ferries visit Lasqueti Island as initially promised, allowing our community to have a meaningful role in shaping the future of our ferry service. We believe that this step is essential to address the challenges we face and improve the reliability of the service for our residents.

Your prompt response and commitment to addressing this matter is requested. I look forward to your support in ensuring that the voices of Lasqueti Islanders are not left unheard and that our input is considered in the upcoming contract negotiations.

Thank you for your attention to these pressing concerns.

Sincerely,
Shelley Garside, Chair LCA Ferry Committee, Lasqueti Island.
shelley [at] garside [dot] ca
250-333-8005

Ps, I am including the two previous letters to BC Ferries in this email for your reference.

Cc; Kaye Krishna, Adam Walker, David Eby.

 

Contact information:

Brian Anderson   Vice President, Strategy & Community Engagement   BC Ferries

brian [dot] anderson [at] bcferries [dot] com

Suite 500- 1321 Blanshard Street, Victoria, BC, V8W 0B7

 

Nicholas Jimenez   President & CEO BC Ferries

nicolas [dot] jimenez [at] bcferries [dot] com

 

Hon. Rob Fleming   Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure

Minister [dot] Transportation [at] gov [dot] bc [dot] ca      250-387-1978

 

Kaye Krishna   Deputy Minister of Transportation

kaye [dot] krishna [at] gov [dot] bc [dot] ca     250-387-3280

 

Adam Walker    MLA Parksville-Qualicum

adam [dot] walker [dot] MLA [at] leg [dot] bc [dot] ca   250-248-2625

 

Hon David Eby   Pemier

premier [at] gov [dot] bc [dot] ca   250-387-1715

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