Note: This is not an attack on the BC Ferries – but an attempt for me to understand how this white elephant was created – and why it is unable to do the job it was created to do !

First: I am writing this live on line. When I read the draft there will be changes, so give me a couple of days, or more,  to finalize this letter of my impression of why the BCF is a huge white elephant. And worse: The largest single hinder to the developing of our BC coastal economy, lifestyle and tourism, to its fully potential.

I love the sea, love to travel, especially by boat, and I do enjoy travelling with the ferries.

The beauty of the BC Pacific waters are known around the world, but not accessible because of the lack of more than a basic marine transportation infrastructure, the single main provider thereof : BCF. A Monopoly.

Many fortunate that have traveled the world, enjoying the ferries that cross straights , channels and fjords, and provide services to islands all over. They come to BC and wonder what is wrong here, why can we not get it right ? Why can we not jump a ship to Queen Charlotte Islands from downtown Vancouver any day they want to ? And they do want to.

And why do we have to build the ferries in Europe ?

You might notice that I do not even attempt to criticise the BCF Board of Directors. Their mandate is really outdated of todays needs; Service providing, community responsibility, that should be part of their objectives; To run a corporation of this importance to the well being of the whole coast. And do not blame the ferries or the union. The politicians that created BCF are to blame.They were trying to replace the Black Ball Ferries. They failed.

Service is a key word, competition is another. Monopoly is seldom a good service provider.

I also have to read, and understand all the info provided about BCF and the BC Ferry Commission, and here is some sad reading, and where the dog is buried.

“Regulations & Performance Reviews

The Commission regulates British Columbia Ferry Services Inc (BC Ferries), the major ferry operator in coastal BC.


The Commission regulates British Columbia Ferry Services Inc. (BC Ferries), the major ferry operator in coastal BC which holds an effective monopoly on most of its routes…. Read More+    – this small quote should give you the idea of my concerns.

The British Columbia Ferries Services Inc., or BC Ferries or BCF 

British Columbia Ferry Services Inc., or BC Ferries (abbreviated BCF) is an independently managed, publicly owned company that provides all major passenger and vehicle ferry services for coastal and island communities in the Canadian province of British Columbia. Set up in 1960 to provide a similar service to that provided by the Black Ball Line and the Canadian Pacific Railway, which were affected by job action at the time, BC Ferries has become the largest passenger ferry line in North America and the second largest in the world,[2] boasting a fleet of 36 vessels with a total passenger and crew capacity of over 27,000, serving 49 locations on the BC coast.

As BC Ferries provides an essential link from mainland British Columbia to the various islands on its routes, it is subsidized by the Government of British Columbia ($151 million in the 2011 fiscal year) and the Government of Canada ($27 million in the 2011 fiscal year).[3] The inland ferries operating on British Columbia’s rivers and lakes are not run by BC Ferries. The responsibility for their provision rests with the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation, which contracts operation to various private sector companies. “

This poorly established terms of operating, lack of service oriented goals, actually no Goals nor Objectives, no Mission Statement, no nothing. “Providing service to various islands”, not mentioning that some destinations are not islands, but part of the mainland, that should have a road connection.

And the same for the BCF Commission lack of real objectives:

Likely discussed over a cup of tea, in the Bengal Room, at The Empress Hotel, one afternoon, in the 60’s, by a Social Credit bureaucrat.

And I supported that party.


The Commission regulates ferry operators under the Coastal Ferry Act and as amended by subsequent legislation.  The Commission is independent of both the provincial government and of BC Ferries.

In the course of its regulatory activities and responsibilities, the Commission is required to bear in mind four principles as set out in section 38 of the Act as follows:

  1. the primary role of the commissioner is to balance, in the manner the commissioner considers appropriate,  the interests of ferry users, taxpayers and the financial sustainability of ferry operators;
  2. ferry operators are to be encouraged to adopt a commercial approach to ferry service delivery;
  3. ferry operators are to be encouraged to seek additional or alternative service providers on designated ferry routes through fair and open competitive processes; and
  4. ferry operators are to be encouraged to be innovative and to minimize expenses without adversely affecting their safe compliance with core ferry services.

The Commission ensures that the average level of ferry fares charged by the company does not rise above a ceiling or “price cap” set by the Commission.

Other key tasks of the commissioner include monitoring BC Ferries’ adherence to the terms of the Coastal Ferry Services Contract, approval of major capital expenditures, regulating unfair competitive advantage and the approval and monitoring of BC Ferries’ customer complaints process.

Efficiency in ferry services helps keep down both ferry fares and government subsidies. If you as a member of the public have information or observations suggesting ways in which the performance, service quality, efficiency or productivity of BC Ferries could be improved, the Commission would be pleased to hear from you. Based on your input, the Commission could decide to launch a probe in which BC Ferries is legally required to answer the Commission’s questions and comply with any resulting orders, with no appeal.

For information on the powers, roles and responsibilities of the Commission detailed in part 4 of the Coastal Ferry Act, click here.

The costs of running the BC Ferry Commission have to be paid by BC Ferries itself. The total cost of running the Commission has been less than one tenth of one percentage point of BC Ferries’ revenue from marine transportation.”

Read these Four Principles: Are they followed. Not at all. especially not no. 3 principle.

All in all what I wanted to say with this article is that the BCF terms of operating reference through the BCF Commission, is the major impediments to much of the west coast tourism industry, and the major reason why so many of our coastal communities are suffering, and not living up to their sosio economic potential.

I really enjoyed the trips in the 60′ s with the Black Ball Ferries, and here trying to say that BCF provide a basic service, but are not really service oriented in so many ways.

From 82′ to 92′ I lived and worked on The Sunshine Coast, and used the ferries a lot. An attempt with a fast passenger vessel was tried, that should be a natural addition on most routes. High speed car ferries should also be used on the long runs, like Comox to Horseshoe Bay, and Saltery Bay. Absolute no reason to channel that road traffic though the lower Sunshine Coast.

The Sunshine Coast is not even an island, it is part of the mainland. Why is a Commissioner of all transport on the BC coast not given a mandate to look at alternatives, like tunnels and bridges ?

This is done everywhere around the world, but not in BC, where it could provide lifelines to many suffering communities on the coast.

Why do I see ads on the TV today, BCF advertising Whistler as a tourism destination. Riding on their coat tails of success. They do not provide a ferry service to Whistler, or even to Squamish, where they should have fast passenger vessels.

Their ads should be for Gibsons, Haida Gwaii, Comox, Powell River, Lasquiti and so on, where they have a real responsibility to the community.

Worst of all. Every weekend, every summer, every long weekend all year, seems to come as a surprise !


In the BCF Commissioners role, it is always the “ferry operators”, as if we have dozen of them, as we should have, and their role to provide a service, ” in a fair and open competitive process”. Show me an example !

In a perfect ferry corp. world no car should ever be left behind, always on schedule, no problems, no surprises. With all the experience of the BCF, all the floating material, all the expertise, this should be relative easy to achieve.

Plan ahead and lease extra equipment if needed for the summer, but never leave a car behind. The coastal communities, their total existence, rely on you, to provide a service, the small businesses that only have 90 summer days to balance their annual budget, they are totally dependent on the BCF service. This should be in your terms of reference to the BCF Commission, or scrap the Commission and let the coastal communities decide.

My be the First Nations will take an initiative to take the lead in marine transportation.

Link to BC Ferries Forum:

“The inland ferry’s were owned and operated by the highways dept and as such were considered part of the highway system, the same as a bridge, so no fare. The coastal ferries, depending on who you talk to, are not part of the highways. So there is a fare.
One anomaly is that the Trans Canada Highway starts in Victoria and goes up to Nanaimo then to Vancouver. To my mind that makes the ferry just as much a part of the highways as the inland ferries. The ferries were originally intended to be at least partly subsidized according to a formula which costed out the expense of an equivalent length of highway.
Lately the politician’s, Campbell in particular, have been using the ferry system as a whipping boy. It goes back to the old “Give them someone/something to hate and they will forget all else” you are then free to do pretty much as you wish. The money spent on the conference center and the sea to sky highway would pay for many ferries and so long as they can keep attacking the ferry system then there is little mention of the costs for the conference center, sea to sky, rapid transit etc. As one person told me “All the votes are in the lower mainland, so long as we keep them happy we can serve the rest of the province”

Read more:

While I remember, here is a link to my Sunshine Coast Connector, a simple highway !

Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island.

The coastal communities of BC are a prime international travel destination. The rare beauty, scenery, wildlife, climate, people and hospitality. And many more superlatives.

An international tourist plan six months to a year in advance, in detail, the places to visit, the time frame, the transportation, the overnight stays, excursions and events. They book, pay they deposits, brag to their friends where they are going, and look forward to their trip.

They can sit in China or Switzerland and do this on their pc.

And here it stop ! The BCF can not provide a reliable, predictable and complete travel service to our coastal communities. They do not even have a mandate to do that.

“The Commission regulates the service provided on a ferry route in a number of ways:

  • It monitors BC Ferries’ adherence to its contract with the Province, which commits BC Ferries to provide a specific number of sailings per day on each of its 25 routes.  For a finding on how far BC Ferries met this commitment last year, visit Contracted Sailings.
  • The Commission requires BC Ferries to report quarterly on its on-time performance for each route, and on the number of overloaded sailings.
  • BC Ferries must submit its annual Customer Satisfaction Tracking Survey to the Commission.  You will find the latest survey on BC Ferries’ website by clicking here.
  • BC Ferries cannot stop serving a route or cut back service on a route without the Commission’s permission. See the buttons Route Discontinuance and Service Reduction on the left for more on what is involved.”

The potential visitors, that is the livelihood of the many small businesses up and down the coast, they do not care, ” how the BCF met their commitment last year”, they want to book  a trip to their chosen destination this or next year.

Can they ? Can they rely on getting on that run next year ? No, not at all. They can book and travel almost anywhere in the world with a reliable infrastructure in place, but not in BC.

The solutions are many and varied. Many of the islands should be connected, by bridge, tunnel, floating or sunken concrete roadways. Saltspring, Gabriola, Denman, Hornby and surely many more. This form of road transport once built, is far less costly in than operating ferries, and paid back by a toll, at a lower cost the the BCF fares.

A Sunshine Coast Connector should be the very first. Connector to Vancouver Island next.

Lack of any competition to BCF is the main reason that the Corp. have stagnated with this mode of transport, and not widened their horizon. Ferry service on bids ? Why not, there a many very capable operators around the world, we could learn a few things. Encourage private operators ? Yes, a must !

Passenger only vessels also a must on many routes. Many could also leave the car when going to town or the airport, but the reliable service must be there. A greener way of travel.

24 hour service, also a must, not only in the summer time. I relied on a inland highway ferry to go to work for 3 years, the last run was at 2 AM and the first at 4 AM, that was fine.

All the coastal ferries should run 24 hours. From midnight to 6 AM half price, or other initiatives to spread the overloads over the 24 hr period. Benefit: More satisfied customers, less complaints and no overloads. Simple as can be !

Smaller, faster and more green vessels. The 3 gas ferries now being built in Poland is a start, but they should have been built right here in BC. Another huge mistake, heads should roll, instead of bonuses.

BCF Corporate Profile: 

BC Ferries is one of the largest ferry operators in the world, providing year-round vehicle and passenger service on 25 routes to 47 terminals, with a fleet of 35 vessels. We are an essential transportation link that connects coastal communities and facilitates the movement of people, goods and services.

In April 2003, BC Ferries was transformed from a Crown corporation into an independent, commercial organization under the Company Act.  Our Company is governed by an independent Board of Directors appointed by the B.C. Ferry Authority.

Our Vision
To provide a continuously improving west coast travel experience that
consistently exceeds customer expectations and reflects the innovation and pride of our employees.

Our Mission
To provide safe, reliable and efficient marine transportation services which consistently exceed the expectations of our customers, employees and communities, while creating enterprise value.

Our Values
Ensure that the safety and security of our customers and staff is a primary concern in all aspects of doing business.

Be motivated by customer expectations in providing quality facilities and services.

Be accountable for all our actions and ensure we demonstrate integrity in our business relations, utilization of resources, treatment of our customers and staff, and in the general conduct of our business.

Work openly and constructively with our various business and community stakeholders to exceed the expectations of our customers and advance each other’s interests.

Ensure that environmental standards are maintained.

Always deal from a position of honesty, integrity and mutual respect, and ensure that our employees develop to their full potential. 

Our Commitment to Customers

To provide a continuously improving west coast travel experience that consistently exceeds customer expectations and reflects the innovation and pride of our employees.

I am sorry to say: Your Vision (word for word the same as your Commitment to Customers), your Mission, Your Values – You are not living up to them!

“consistently exceeds customer expectations … ) is used in all your statements.

You first have to come close, after that one can exceed.

Time has come to break up one of the largest ferry corporations in the world, keep the terminals, pay taxes or sell them to the municipalities. Vessels and routes out for tender, and the BC coast can welcome a new beginning of prosperity.

When the BCF takes on a service to a community, you are the life line to that community. You can not just provide safe transport for gods and services, you are an integral part of the infrastructure of that community. You are almost single handed responsible for the sosio economic welfare of your chosen community. You can not come and go when you or your commissioner thinks it is suitable or profitable. You have to provide the services that the community require to maintain, sustain, grow and prosper !

That is a serious responsibility that is not in your mandate at all ?

And, if, and when you do have to scrap a vessel, do not sell it to a local, and it end up as an environmental and marine traffic hazard in the Fraser River. Do not sell it to the orient where when disaster strikes, thousands will die, using the cargo deck for people transport.

Clean the vessel, and sink it as a safe breakwater for local small community, and/or artificial reefs for local marine habitat, and to the enjoyment of the sport divers and benefits local sports fishing.


As a coastal residence I am concerned over this intolerable situation.

I will welcome and post any comment.

….    more to come …..  it will take some time before I have managed to express most of  my concerns and found positive solutions ….  in the meantime start 24 hrs service on most runs !

BC Coastal Express

Take The “Northern Expedition” and The “Northern Venture” as basic for a new bolder corporation: BC Coastal Express. Add vessels to this service, a total of 12 would be needed. Some can be passenger only, some faster, smaller and more  suitable for smaller coastal communities.

The Coastal Express service would start from Vancouver and Pr. Rupert every day of the year, and with the right vessels, stop daily at many coastal communities now bypassed. Summer and winter schedule would vary for the seasons, but the basic service would be there year round. Most passengers would travel without a car, many with bicycle and or a backpack. The smaller coastal communities that could be served this way, would find many local attractions to attract their visitors.


This entry was posted in Correspondence, Misc, Work and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Note: This is not an attack on the BC Ferries – but an attempt for me to understand how this white elephant was created – and why it is unable to do the job it was created to do !

  1. Pingback: BC Ferries – mandate to do their job right ? | Sunshine Coast Connector

Comments are closed.