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Coastal Renaissance outage leads to beefed up customer care response

B.C. Ferries is rebooking passengers after Renaissance was sidelined
Coastal Renaissance at Duke Point in Nanaimo. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

B.C. Ferries is focusing an intensive effort on rebooking travellers who had been scheduled to sail on the sidelined Coastal Renaissance. At the same time, it is facing the complicated task of fixing the ferry, one of three on Nanaimo’s Duke Point to Tsawwassen route.

The ferry’s 31.5-tonne drive motor will be hauled out using specialized equipment so that it can be inspected and repaired. The weight is similar to a fully loaded cement truck, the company said Friday.

Issues with the motor saw the ferry removed from service Thursday. It was at Tsawwassen Friday and is now at Departure Bay.

An expert from the original equipment manufacturer will be at the ferry Saturday morning with B.C. Ferries teams, B.C. Ferries chief executive Nicolas Jimenez said at a press conference Friday.

“We will begin the very complicated task of understanding the nature of the damage and what is going to be required to repair it.”

Specialized equipment is required to remove the engine.

“This is not a simple repair,” and is expected to take weeks, he said. “This is going to take a fair bit of time for us to really understand the nature of the damage because it is housed in the casing where you can’t actually see it. So we are going to have to get inside the engine and inspect it with our partners from the original equipment manufacturer.”

Coastal class ferries are considered to be among the most reliable vessels in the fleet, he said. Coastal Renaissance was built in 2007 in Germany. The drive motor manufacturer was Wärtsilä/VEM.

The ferry was scheduled for its annual refit this fall. Its previous refit was carried out from October to November of last year.

This particular issue was unusual and not something that could be planned for, Jimenez said.

All ferries go through inspections, which include looking at machinery, fixtures and fittings, by vessel engineering staff every six months. Regular underwater dives are carried out, as are vibration and oil-condition analysis, and safety audits are done annually, the company said.

B.C. Ferries has set up a special priority phone queue for customers who had bookings on Coastal Renaissance to help them lock in space on alternative sailings.

The company is calling in extra staff, increasing public information, and having agents who can speak directly with passengers. It is offering refunds and travel vouchers.

This is an “extremely labour intensive effort,” Jimenez said. “We will be doing this for as long as we need to.”

The Queen of Coquitlam will be brought in on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to serve the Duke Point-Tsawwassen route. Coastal Inspiration and Queen of Alberni are the other two ferries sharing that route.

The 456-foot-long (139-metre) Queen of Coquitlam, built in 1976, can carry up to 1,494 passengers and crew and 316 vehicles.

It is not possible to put on more sailings earlier and later in the day because ferries are already in service 20 hours a day, Jimenez said. Time is needed overnight for daily maintenance.

Meanwhile, there’s heavy traffic at Horseshoe Bay, where passengers travel to Nanaimo’s Departure Bay. Passengers are turning to that route now that Coastal Renaissance is out of service, during a traditionally busy time for the system.

Actions taken at that terminal include fully staffing the ticket booths and receiving assistance from the West Vancouver police department.

Coastal Renaissance carries commercial traffic to deliver supplies to Vancouver Island. Products are carried in individual vehicles and in drop-trailers.

Commercial customers contacted Thursday indicated that alternate travel was lined up with private carriers, Jimenez said.

“We are actively in conversations with others in the industry to determine whether we can rent a barge or whether we can find third parties to deliver some of our business. We are looking at all potential options to make sure that we service the need that exists. “We are very acutely aware of the role we play in supply chains here in B.C.”

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