New Texada ferry back in service with temporary repair

Update: Engineers have made a temporary repair to the Island Discovery. It went back into service Saturday morning.

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B.C. Ferries’ Island Discovery vessel is out of commission after only a month serving the Powell River-Texada Island route.

A piece of equipment was accidentally damaged while a contractor was working on the ferry Tuesday evening, B.C. Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshal said Friday.

The part is called a switchboard and is similar to an electrical panel in a home. All electric power on the vessel goes through it to run the equipment, she said.

A part to get the new ferry back in service is on its way. In fact, two similar parts are coming — one from the U.S. and the other from Europe.

Whichever one arrives first will be installed.

Once it is here, it can be quickly installed, Marshall said, but it’s not known precisely when the part will arrive. “Every day is obviously inconvenient for our customers.”

B.C. Ferries has hired two water taxis to continually shuttle foot passengers back and forth on the route. Each taxi is limited to six passengers at a time because of COVID-19 distancing rules.

There is no charge for passengers and the trip takes just 15 minutes in the water taxis, down from the usual 35 minutes, Marshall said.

The Salish Eagle ferry, which travels between Powell River and Comox and carries vehicles, has expanded its route to incorporate stops at Texada, she said.

However, service has been reduced on the Powell River-Texada Island route and there have been some overloads as motorists wait for the ferry, Marshall said.

The 80.8-metre Island Discovery is docked at Saltery Bay on the Sunshine Coast, where it was towed by tugs.

It was built in Romania and went into service in early June. The hybrid vessel is equipped with a battery and can carry 47 vehicles and between 300 and 450 passengers.

The vessel is still under warranty and the contractor is responsible for the part, Marshall said.

Prior to the Discovery arriving, the North Island Princess was used on the Powell River-Texada Island route. That ferry, which could not be used because its operating certificate has expired, is for sale.

Meanwhile, B.C. Ferries’ overall system is running at about 30 per cent below numbers typically seen this time of year, Marshall said.

That’s due to the COVID-19 restrictions, which are now partly lifted as more sailings are added.

The Horseshoe Bay-to-Langdale route on the Sunshine Coast has been experiencing long waits, with non-resident customers facing eight-hour waits at times, she said.

Under B.C. Ferries’ operating agreement with the province, amended during the pandemic, priority boarding goes to essential-service workers, essential goods and residents.

Marshall recommends booking a reservation on that route.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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