Southern Gulf Islands Schedule Enhancement

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An illustration of the Southern Gulf Islands network.

We are introducing a new Salish class ferry to the Southern Gulf Islands route in 2022! This new ferry is larger than the ferry it is replacing (the Mayne Queen) and will provide more capacity simply by introducing it into the current schedule. But we think it's possible to enhance the schedule even further, and we are engaging with Island communities to help us shape and evaluate these possibilities.

The schedule enhancements made with the introduction of Salish class ferries onto the Tsawwassen to Southern Gulf Islands route in 2017 have supported record high traffic, balancing the needs of Islanders and visitors, commercial goods and services, and many other factors. With the introduction of another Salish class ferry into the network, we want to understand how Islands are growing and changing.

The Southern Gulf Islands is our most complex scheduling region, serving five islands (Saturna, Pender, Mayne, Galiano and Salt Spring Islands) from two major ports (Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen) and connecting the five islands to each other. We must consider each island and customer need, and how these needs fluctuate by season as we look at making enhancements to our service. We want your feedback to ensure we are supporting the needs of all users and Island communities now and into the future. We look forward to hearing from you.

We are introducing a new Salish class ferry to the Southern Gulf Islands route in 2022! This new ferry is larger than the ferry it is replacing (the Mayne Queen) and will provide more capacity simply by introducing it into the current schedule. But we think it's possible to enhance the schedule even further, and we are engaging with Island communities to help us shape and evaluate these possibilities.

The schedule enhancements made with the introduction of Salish class ferries onto the Tsawwassen to Southern Gulf Islands route in 2017 have supported record high traffic, balancing the needs of Islanders and visitors, commercial goods and services, and many other factors. With the introduction of another Salish class ferry into the network, we want to understand how Islands are growing and changing.

The Southern Gulf Islands is our most complex scheduling region, serving five islands (Saturna, Pender, Mayne, Galiano and Salt Spring Islands) from two major ports (Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen) and connecting the five islands to each other. We must consider each island and customer need, and how these needs fluctuate by season as we look at making enhancements to our service. We want your feedback to ensure we are supporting the needs of all users and Island communities now and into the future. We look forward to hearing from you.

  • Project Update - April 1, 2022

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    Entry of Salish Vessel to the Southern Gulf Islands Delayed Until Fall

    As experienced throughout the fall and winter of 2021/22, the impact of crew shortages at BC Ferries is expected to continue through the spring and into summer. While we do not anticipate any major service disruptions for the Southern Gulf Islands this summer, crewing challenges are impacting our ability to bring a Salish vessel into service on the route, and we are anticipating a fall introduction at this time. For the spring and summer, the Mayne Queen and the Queen of Cumberland will remain on the route on the regular summer schedule as we continue to work on addressing the current crew shortfalls.

    Because the Salish vessels are larger, they require more crew and we are particularly challenged with hiring licensed crew like chief officers and engineers to fill these roles. We have not been able to find enough crew for the required positions on the larger Salish vessel just yet and continue to actively recruit to fill the vacancies. We are advancing several initiatives to address the shortages including investing in internal training and advancement, implementing a significant push on recruitment, and bringing back retired employees where possible.

    Contributing factors to the current crew shortages include higher than expected retirements in key shipboard positions, the impact of vaccination policies and difficulties recruiting international candidates due to COVID-19, as well as the 25-year global shortage of professional mariners. Like so many industries and other ferry service providers around the world, we find ourselves in a challenging time coming out of the pandemic.

    This is a dynamic situation and our crewing teams are working very hard to fill the gaps. Please continue to check this page for updates.

  • Project Update - March 8, 2022

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    No Changes to Regular Schedules for the Southern Gulf Islands This Summer

    Southern Gulf Island schedules will remain status quo for the 2022 summer season. We recognize that over the pandemic there have been changes in ferry travel patterns and usage, as well as the composition of Southern Gulf Island communities. As we come out of these challenging times, we have decided to maintain existing schedules to minimize disruption and give people time to recalibrate. We will closely monitor how the schedules are performing and consider changes once we see how residents and visitors adjust.

    We anticipate introducing a Salish ferry into service on the route this summer. In the interim, the Mayne Queen and the Queen of Cumberland will continue to provide service to the Southern Gulf Islands.

    Thank you to our Ferry Advisory Committees

    We would like to thank the Southern Gulf Islands and Salt Spring Island Ferry Advisory Committees for their tireless efforts in reviewing schedule options for the Southern Gulf Islands routes. We clearly heard from them about the significant impact schedule changes may have on businesses and residents, and about the desire to keep things as close as possible to what is in place today.

    Thank you for participating in engagement efforts

    We would also like to thank the over 2,500 community members who provided input during engagement efforts about new schedules. Our engagement process and timelines have been dynamic as we have adjusted to the changing realities of COVID on our business and our ability to engage with the community. We appreciate your participation and interest, and we will continue to monitor schedule performance over the coming months and keep you updated on any future engagement opportunities.

  • Project Update - August 18, 2021

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    Work Continues with the Ferry Advisory Committees

    We continue to work closely with our Southern Gulf Islands and Salt Spring Island Ferry Advisory Committees (FACs) in reviewing and evaluating schedule options for community feedback. We have completed an initial review of potential schedules with the FACs and an employee working group and we are now in the process of reviewing and refining options based on their feedback. We will meet with the Committees again before we bring schedules to the community for review this fall.

    We would like to thank all our FAC members once again for their continued commitment to this process. We are grateful for their time and involvement.

    Fall Community Engagement

    We are taking time to ensure we have responded to the feedback provided from the community, our employees, and our FACs on schedule options wherever possible. This means we are extending our timelines slightly and have earmarked the next round of community engagement for later this year. This extension will not compress our timelines for schedule implementation, and will not impact our ability to respond to community feedback on the options.

    Engagement will be active for one month and will offer many opportunities to provide feedback, including:

    • Online through our engagement page
    • Through virtual community meetings/workshops, and
    • At an in-person event on each island


    We are in the Midst of a Complex Process

    The Southern Gulf Islands is our most complex scheduling region, serving five islands (Saturna, Pender, Mayne, Galiano, and Salt Spring Islands) from two major ports (Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen) and connecting the five islands to each other. Building the interconnected schedules for this region is a particularly challenging process. Imagine building a house, where the movement of one support beam means the rest of the structure must also shift in order maintain the integrity of the house. The same is true when building schedules, moving even one sailing time or changing one port sequence means every other element of the interconnected five-island schedule must also shift to compensate.

    We are hard at work revising schedule options in response to the valuable feedback provided by our FAC members from each Island. It is time consuming and complex work and we are grateful for your patience as we do this. We know you are eager to see schedule options and we look forward to sharing them with you this fall.


    Please stay tuned to this page for the latest project information and plans. We will provide regular updates as we work our way through these next couple of months so you remain apprised of our progress and plans.

  • Project Update - June 17, 2021

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    Schedule Concepts In Development

    With the results of the first phase of engagement now published, we wanted to update you on our next steps and what to expect this summer. Currently the team is exploring different schedule concepts looking for opportunities to create service that is the same or better than what Southern Gulf Island communities experience today. The team is using the evaluation criteria we developed in Phase 1 engagement to guide this exploration and identify the most promising possibilities.


    We will share possible schedules with you later this summer for feedback

    The Southern Gulf Islands is our most complex scheduling region, serving five islands (Saturna, Pender, Mayne, Galiano and Salt Spring Islands) from two major ports (Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen) and connecting the five islands to each other. As you can imagine, the work to find these enhancements is complex and considerable, please bear with us as we sift through the possibilities. We will share the most promising opportunities, including potential schedules, with you later this summer for your review and feedback.


    We continue to work with our Ferry Advisory Committees

    We continue to work closely with our Southern Gulf Island and Salt Spring Island Ferry Advisory Committees and these groups will be an integral part of the early evaluation process. Over the next little while they will help us shape the materials and refine possible schedules for community feedback. We’d like to thank all our FAC members for their time and commitment to this process. It is no small task and we are grateful for their participation!


    We look forward to seeing you in person

    For our next phase of engagement we will be providing many opportunities for feedback, including in-person events on each Island. You can plan to participate:

    • Online through our engagement page;
    • In virtual community meetings/workshops, or
    • At an in-person event on your Island.


    Stay tuned to our online engagement page www.bcferriesprojects.ca/sgi for information as plans and dates are finalized.

    We look forward to seeing you soon!

  • Project Update - June 1, 2021

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    Phase I Engagement Results Now Available

    The reports on Phase I engagement efforts are now available. Please click the links below or browse the Documents section on the right-hand side of the page to view the reports:


    Central reports covering the combined results from all engagement efforts across all islands (Galiano, Mayne, Pender, Saturna, and Salt Spring):


    Sub reports covering the online engagement results from each island:


    Executive Summary of Results

    2,523 people participated in this first phase of engagement, 58% of participants are full-time residents of the Southern Gulf Islands, while 39% are part-time residents or visitors. Engagement activities were all virtual in nature in keeping with current Provincial Health Orders and included:

    • Four virtual meetings with the Southern Gulf Islands and Salt Spring Island Ferry Advisory Committees
    • A month-long online engagement
    • 22 stakeholder conversations with individuals across the Southern Gulf Islands and Salt Spring Island.


    This first phase of engagement focused on the development of criteria that can be used to evaluate schedule concepts in the next phase of engagement. Six draft evaluation criteria were proposed and validated through the engagement process:

    • Frequency of access to/from major ports
    • Sailing durations to/from major ports
    • Preferred departure times to/from major ports
    • Capacity available to/from major ports
    • On-time performance
    • Transfers required


    Through engagement, participants indicated that the three most important evaluation criteria were:

    1. Frequency of sailings to/from major ports
    2. Preferred departure times to/from major ports
    3. Capacity available to/from major ports


    Participants noted a variety of considerations for each evaluation criteria that are detailed in the engagement reports. Desired departure times, reducing the duration of travel, improving travel certainty, and ensuring sailing times that support resident, business, and visitor needs were all common themes arising in the feedback.

    In addition to the six draft evaluation criteria noted above, we asked about the importance of inter-island connectivity. Generally, participants felt inter-island connectivity was important, but indicated that access to and from Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen were of greater priority. Full-time residents prioritized access to Swartz Bay for all Islands except Salt Spring Island, where access to the Mainland remained a priority. For all Islands part-time residents and visitors prioritized access to the Mainland over access to Vancouver Island.

    We will now take the results of the engagement and use the findings to begin developing schedule concepts. We will be working closely with the Southern Gulf Islands and Salt Spring Island Ferry Advisory Committees to review schedule concepts prior to bringing them to the community for feedback in phase two this summer.

Page last updated: 01 Apr 2022, 02:51 PM