The Northern Sea Wolf is far greater in size and capacity to the Nimpkish (shown in cut-out) but it will not be showing up in Bella Coola this summer

BC Ferries confirms new Bella Coola service won’t be ready until after tourism season

The Nimpkish is arriving near-empty as frustrated travelers can’t get to Bella Bella for transfer

For the fourth summer in a row, there will be no direct ferry service connecting Port Hardy and Bella Coola.

BC Ferries has confirmed the Northern Sea Wolf — which was highly anticipated to launch the first week of July — is facing major delays and will not sail until mid-October. If that’s not bad enough, the Nimpkish has been arriving near empty, topping off an increasingly frustrating summer for travelers and local tourism operators.

“We were very upset to hear that the Northern Sea Wolf won’t sail until October,” said Bella Coola Valley Tourism President Tom Hermance. “In addition, the fact that the Nimpkish is arriving near empty on some runs shows that travelers are upset too. This is bad news for our members and is very concerning for the region as a whole.”

BC Ferries Public Affairs Manager Darin Guenette said that the company is doing its best to get the vessel into service as soon as possible but was not able to reach any service dates this summer.

Read more: BC Ferries confirms Northern Sea Wolf will not sail until mid-July

A tentative date has been set for September 20 to begin direct sailings from Port Hardy to Bella Coola on the Northern Adventure – the vessel that services the Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii route. The Northern Sea Wolf is expected to make an appearance in central coast waters sometime after October 15 to take over for the Nimpkish on the mid-coast run – long after the summer season has passed.

“The production schedule for the vessel has experienced some major setbacks that resulted from the extensive renovations on the ship,” said Guenette. “We are all disappointed, but work is proceeding as quickly as possible.”

Guenette compared the reconstruction of the Sea Wolf to a house renovation: one project uncovered another, and another, and so on. This has resulted in severe challenges that have written off any chance of the vessel providing direct service this summer.

Read more: New BC Ferries vessel named the Northern Sea Wolf

Local and regional tourism operators have promoted the route heavily for over a year. The revelation that the vessel will not make the summer season has been huge blow.

“The credibility of the route is now at an all time low,” said Hermance. “It’s going to take some serious effort on the part of BC Ferries to earn the trust of our community again, and, I would argue, earn the trust of their customers as well.”

Initial bookings for the route were high but there has been a slew of cancellations, and now the Nimpkish has been arriving near empty due to complications with travel from Port Hardy to Bella Bella.

“Some people who booked to sail the Northern Sea Wolf were not able to get to Bella Bella to make the transfer to the Nimpkish because the Northern Expedition is full,” explained Guenette. “If there’s room we are accepting all bookings for the Nimpkish, but if the sailings to Bella Bella are full people are forced to cancel.”

Guenette also said that BC Ferries has received a large number of no-shows on the route, for which there were varied explanations from passengers. He said the customer care team is following up with all clients who were booked to sail the Northern Sea Wolf to offer a 2019 trip in lieu of this year, but as many are international clients re-booking isn’t that simple.

“We don’t know exact numbers, but we do a lot of bookings through tour companies, so we do know there are a large proportion of international clients,” explained Guenette. “It is certainly more difficult to reschedule those people.”

Meanwhile, Bella Coola Valley Tourism has been receiving calls from stranded travelers in Bella Bella facing a variety of challenges regarding accommodation and amenities.

“We have received calls from stranded visitors in Bella Bella who are sleeping in their cars, unable to find bathrooms, and more,” said Hermance. “It has been awful for stuck guests.”

With hopes for this tourist season essentially over, attention is being turned to the remainder of the season as well as planning into 2019.

Hermance is hopeful that this summer’s debacle will lead to improvements in 2019; pushing for BC Ferries to market the route more aggressively and start the season earlier.

“Bella Coola Valley Tourism and its partners have already been pushing for an earlier start to 2019 rather than an extension of the 2018 season,” said Hermance. “This latest announcement has us rethinking our marketing strategy for 2019.”

Guenette agreed, saying BC Ferries is committed to ensuring the 2019 season will be the best it can be.

“BC Ferries is listening to the requests from Bella Coola Valley Tourism to start the 2019 season earlier in June and continue into September,” said Guenette. “In addition, our marketing team will be promoting the route strongly and focusing on getting off on the right foot to rebuild customer confidence.”

 

The Nimpkish’s small size has made it the subject of much frustration for travelers and tourism operators

A water taxi carrying passengers from Port Hardy to Bella Coola Friday fuels up before returning to the island. Thrilled passengers aboard the small vessel said it took about six hours for the picturesque journey. Angie Mindus photo

Just Posted

Canada goose protected by horse from eagle attack, rescued and reunited with nest mate

One was protected from an eagle attack by a horse, the other one wandered onto a porch

RCMP trying to locate two men on outstanding warrants

Justin Tyler Pichoch and Gerald Isnardy are believed to be living in the Williams Lake area

Baby makes surprise arrival on Sheep Creek Hill

Meldrum Creek woman delivers in the passenger seat

Periods of light snow should end by noon for Williams Lake area

There is a southeast wind gusting up to 20 kilometres an hour that will ease up by noon, Environment Canada’s forecast suggests

First residents move into Nuxalk Nation’s tiny homes in Bella Coola

“Last fall when I was sleeping in my car I woke up to a big grizzly bear staring in my window” — grateful new tiny home resident Wayne Schooner

Fashion Fridays: Must-have wardrobe basics

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Guards protest firing of fellow officers charged with assault at B.C. prison

Corrections officers demonstrated in Maple Ridge on Friday afternoon

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

Skier dies at Revelstoke Mountain Resort

Cause of death for young man has not been released

R. Kelly charged with 10 counts of sexual abuse

R&B star has been accused of sexual misconduct involving women and underage girls for years

More sailings coming to 10 BC Ferries’ routes

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said the sailings were originally cut in 2014

Cryptocurrency exchange CEO who suddenly died leaves Kelowna house in will

Gerald Cotten, holding the keys to money tied up in his virtual currency exchange, died in December.

Australian woman killed in avalanche at Whistler

The woman and her partner were reportedly rescued by ski patrol, but she did not survive

Trudeau tells Canadians to listen to clerk in SNC-Lavalin matter

Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick delivered a blunt assessment at the House of Commons justice

Most Read