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Lack of officer caused BC Ferry cancellation

BC Ferries' ongoing shortage of qualified officers led to the cancellation of some sailings last week.

The Queen of Cumberland's sailings on the evening of June 7 between Swartz Bay outside Victoria and Salt Spring and other Gulf Islands were cancelled due to "an operational issue," an announcement from the publicly-owned ferry company said.

"We had a crewing issue," said BC Ferries' spokesperson Deborah Marshall in an email when asked for more detail. "We were short a crew member. We were unable to find a qualified replacement and for safety reasons we cannot sail without the proper crew complement."

There were "an unexpected number of absences" that day, forcing the cancellation, she said. Customers were re-routed onto the Skeena Queen and the Mayne Queen, whose routes and schedules were adjusted.

"We've hired a couple more officers which we are currently familiarizing so we don't expect to have this issue going forward," Marshall said.

BC Ferries also cancelled the Mayne Queen's June 3 morning sailings between Swartz Bay and the Southern Gulf Islands because it was short an officer, and it had a similar problem in April on the main route between Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland.

In April, 2011, The Tyee reported BC Ferries employees were warning that the publicly owned company's move to exclude senior officers from the B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers' Union would result in crewing problems that would lead to more cancelled sailings and delays.

A March 26, 2012 internal email sent by Phil Ker, the manager responsible for crew scheduling out of Swartz Bay, said the exclusion process had contributed to a "severe challenge" finding enough people to work on BC Ferries' vessels.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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