The Island Aurora, a new hybrid-electric vessel built in Romania joined the BC Ferries fleet amid controversy in June. (BC Ferries)

MP asks Minister of Transport for review of safe crew levels on new ferries

The new ferries were approved to run with smaller crew sizes, raising safety concerns

  • Jul. 3, 2020 12:00 a.m.

North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney has weighed in on the reduced staffing requirements for the north Island’s two new ferries.

The Island Aurora and Island Discovery were approved by Transport Canada to run with fewer crew members than the old ferries that were replaced.

Blaney sent a letter to federal transport minister Marc Garneau, requesting that he review the decision.

Ferry crew have said via the BC Ferry & Marine Workers Union that they are unable to complete emergency drills in a timely manner with the reduced crew size of five. The old ferries ran with six or seven crew.

BC Ferries said in a statement that the new ferries are more efficient, allowing the vessel to be safely run with fewer crew.

But the union disagreed, and filed a petition for a judicial review of the Transport Canada decision.

The small islands on the routes told Blaney that BC Ferries jobs are a major part of their livelihoods, and any layoffs will significantly impact them.

No one has been laid off yet, but the union said some workers have had their hours reduced to zero while others are working overtime.

READ MORE: Concerns raised about crew numbers for new BC Ferries

Dan Kimmerly, Ships’ Officers’ Component President with the union, said the crew of five is not able to perform regular engine maintenance and cleaning mid-voyage as they normally would, and so some are asked to do the work on overtime.

The other confusion is that the new boats are licensed to carry half their capacity. The licence allows 145 passengers, and yet can carry 300.

According to Kimmerly, it’s because 150 people — 145 passengers plus five crew — can fit in a life raft. The boats have two muster stations, but are only using one right now and so can only safely sail with half-capacity.

“There probably isn’t the demand right now [for full capacity], but it would appear that they’re just paying these people to sit at home right now. Why not just put them to work?” Kimmerly asked.

The Island Aurora runs between Port McNeill, Alert Bay and Sointula. The Island Discovery serves Powell River and Texada Island.

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca


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