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Down one vessel, BC Ferries cancels some sailings on busy long weekend

The Coastal Celebration is in refit and the job is taking longer than expected, BC Ferries said.
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The Coastal Celebration will be out of service this weekend as repairs are carried out on the vessel. VIA BC FERRIES

If you don’t already have a BC Ferries booking to travel between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen this long weekend, you should plan to travel as a walk-on.

The Coastal Celebration is in refit and the job is taking longer than expected, BC Ferries said Wednesday.

As a result, BC Ferries will be down one vessel this long weekend and will have eight fewer sailings than planned.

Those with reservations will not be impacted. BC Ferries staff have already reassigned more than 6,000 bookings to the Spirit of Vancouver Island and the Spirit of British Columbia — the largest vessels in the fleet — and the Queen of New Westminster.

Customers without reservations are being urged to travel as walk-on passengers because of the limited number of spaces for standby vehicles on sailings.

All ticket booths will be open at both terminals and extra traffic flaggers will be on duty to handle expected lineups and sailing waits.

The terminals are offering activities for families at their playgrounds, hydration stations and misting stations.

The Coastal Celebration was expected back in service by June 15 but that has been pushed back to July 4. Its return date depends on repairs being completed smoothly and successful ship trials.

The 525-foot (160-metre) vessel was built in 2008 and can carry up to 1,604 passengers and crew, and 310 vehicles.

When it went into drydock, shipyard workers discovered a problem with its stern tube bearings and rudder stock. These are critical parts for the efficient and safe operation of the vessel’s propulsion system, BC Ferries said.

The repair is complex. It will require significant crew hours to carry out the repair and test it. Most of that will take place on overtime for staff at night and during this weekend, the company said.

Once the repair is finished, the ferry will head out for a full day of sea trials. It will be near the Swartz Bay terminal at that stage on Sunday. Area residents may hear engine noise for “extended periods of time” as these tests are carried out, the company said.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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