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Two-vessel Crofton-Vesuvius ferry service approved, but still years away

Petition organizer hoping for fall of 2026 as best-case scenario

The two-ferry service between Crofton and Vesuvius on Salt Spring Island is no longer a proposal, having received approval from BC Ferries commissioner Eva Hage. But it’s still years away before those two ferries will be running simultaneously.

“It’s official, the money’s there,” said David Courtney. “It’s a culmination of a lot of hard work.”

Courtney did much of the hard legwork himself, launching a petition to alleviate congestion at the two terminals by putting two vessels on the route. That was done almost two years to the day from the December 2023 funding announcement and the petition garnered 2,256 signatures.

Related story: Two-vessel service a suggested fix for Route 6 between Crofton and Vesuvius

Courtney called it “The Fix For Route 6” and it’s been gathering momentum ever since, as each season passes and the heavy traffic situation on both sides of Stuart Channel becomes even more apparent.

BC Ferries recognized the need for the two-ferry service but it took until now for the commissioner to follow suit with the approval of a major capital expenditure for the Island Class Phase III and Terminal Electrification Program.

As part of the expenditure, BC Ferries proposes to construct and deliver into service four plug-in hybrid Island class vessels capable of operating exclusively in battery electric mode. The new vessels will be deployed on the routes connecting Nanaimo Harbour and Gabriola Island (Route 19 – two vessels) and Campbell River and Quadra Island (Route 23 – two vessels), with corresponding electrical upgrades for rapid charging from ashore made to the four terminals on these routes.

In addition, BC Ferries further proposes to redeploy the existing diesel-electric Island class vessels between Crofton and Vesuvius (Route 6 – two vessels) and between Quadra Island and Cortes Island (Route 24 – one vessel) to alleviate congestion in peak periods. A fourth existing Island class vessel will be deployed as a refit relief vessel.

While Courtney welcomes the news, we’re still looking at nearly three years before the ferry transformations will be complete.

“When we talked back and forth two years ago, we were hoping for the fall of 2026,” he said.

Now, the way it looks, “fall 2026 on a good day, bad day somewhere in 2028,” Courtney added.

BC Ferries is estimating by 2027, the four new vessels will enter service and the Island Class vessels that currently serve those routes will be freed for redeployment to greatly benefit communities with increased capacity to help address current and future demands. Specifically, BC Ferries says the Crofton to Vesuvius route will see capacity increased by 20 per cent along with increased frequency provided by two-vessel service.

“BC Ferries proposed these four new hybrid Island Class vessels because added capacity is critical to helping us get people where they need to go efficiently and reliably,” said Nicolas Jimenez, president and CEO of BC Ferries, in a news release. “As the commissioner has noted in her decision, this project will deliver improved customer service, help lower our costs related to crewing and training, and contribute to safe and reliable service for passengers up and down the coast.”

With ferry relief on the horizon, Courtney is focusing his energy on the other important pieces of infrastructure for either side of the channel.

“Now the icing on the cake is the two terminals,” he conceded.

Spring 2027 is being proposed, but “I keep pushing fall 2026,” Courtney indicated.

Don Bodger

About the Author: Don Bodger

I've been a part of the newspaper industry since 1980 when I began on a part-time basis covering sports for the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle.
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