BC Ferries fires president/CEO

BC Ferries has terminated the contract of president/CEO Mark Collins, a news release from the organization said this morning.

Collins, who has been at the helm at BC Ferries since 2017 and worked in other capacities at the corporation since 2004, was relieved of his duties “immediately” Friday as decided by BC Ferries’ board.

In a written statement, BC Ferries board chair Joy MacPhail said the decision was made because it was “time for renewal, fresh ideas and a renewed commitment to the highest standards of customer service, safety and affordability.”

“Like many organizations, BC Ferries has faced recent staffing shortages, service interruptions and COVID-related challenges,” MacPhail said in the statement. “There are no quick fixes to these systemic challenges.”

In the meantime, BC Ferries has named Jill Sharland as interim president and CEO. Sharland was the CFO of the corporation at the time of the announcement, and officials say she will stay on as CFO while also taking on president/CEO duties for the time being.

BC Ferries noted Collins will be paid severance in accordance with his contract, although the amount remains undetermined. Meanwhile, a full search for a permanent CEO will be launched “soon,” the corporation said.

The lifting of travel restrictions has meant a spike in passenger and car traffic this summer. BC Ferries said car traffic numbers so far has been 2% higher than the pre-pandemic level recorded in 2019.

But the demand increase has also come simultaneously with disruptions. Despite a recent hiring binge, BC Ferries has in recent months had to cancel a number of sailings or reduce sailings on some routes due to a lack of minimum crewing numbers. 

Pre-pandemic, BC Ferries averaged 150 workers who booked off work on any given day due to things like illness or injury.

That number has surged to 600 this June, Collins said in a previous report.

In January, BC Ferries warned there would likely be service disruptions this year because of a shortage of experienced ferry crews and went on a hiring spree. Several routes have had reductions in sailings since then, due to the crew shortages.

MacPhail was named as BC Ferries board chair one month ago, on June 30. The former NDP provincial MLA and cabinet minister was previously board chair of ICBC for the last five years - where she oversaw major overhauls in that corporation, including the introduction of no-fault auto insurance to reduce the operational deficit (which reached more than $1 billion in 2018).