Wednesday, December 20, 2006

BC Ferries feeling some heat over ferry names

There’s an old Rick Nelson song, Garden Party, which features a line that perhaps is getting hummed around the BC Ferries offices these days. “You can’t please everyone, so you might as well please yourself.”

And that in a nutshell is where the naming of the ferry formerly known as Sonia rests. The renaming of the newly purchased ferry as Northern Adventure, while indicative of a marketing image campaign to come, has found more than a few detractors along the North Coast and beyond.

Chief among them, are the residents of Hartley Bay, who had held out hopes that the replacement ferry would carry the name of the village along the Northern coastal waters of British Columbia.

In what is becoming a rather routine course, the Ferry Corporation once again has found itself in the eye of a storm, a seemingly good news story (the replacement of a sunken vessel. and an ambitious rebranding of a service) suddenly finds itself portrayed in a negative fashion, once again putting the Ferry Corporation at odds with the general public. There must be days when the folks at the Ferry Corporation must wonder if they should even go in to work.

The latest controversy over the name selections has made it across the nation from the Globe and Mail, to the front page of the Daily News.

Critics say the new ship should have been named for Hartley Bay rescuers
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Pages one and three

There has been some disappointment that B. C. Ferries won’t be naming the new vessel on the Inside Passage after the rescuers from Hartley Bay who helped save 99 people from drowning after the sinking of the Queen of the North last spring.

“As far as the average public was concerned, it was a no-brainer for B. C. Ferries to do that for Hartley Bay and the rescuers. It would have been a nice gesture, but unfortunately it was out of our hands and there isn’t much that can be done about it,” said Bob Hill, chief councilor for Hartley Bay.

On Friday, B. C. Ferries announced it would be renaming the Sonia, which will replace the Queen of the North, Northern Adventure and the replacement vessel for the Queen of Prince Rupert will be named the Northern Expedition.

“I think that B. C. Ferries would much rather forget about the incident and get it behind them rather than name it the Spirit of Hartley Bay, brining back to mind the rescue,” said Hill.

“My perception is they missed a terrific opportunity. They could have built on that, on the positive side of it- that an accident did happen around Hartley Bay and that Hartley Bay were the rescuers. We would have gotten more passengers to the North than otherwise.”

Hill was called on Friday by B. C. Ferries CEO David Hahn, who told him the names of the new vessels, so Hill wouldn’t be caught off guard.

There have been many suggestions from the public the new vessel be named after the community for their efforts in the rescue.

Despite not being the namesake of the new vessel, Hill said Hartley Bay still has a good working relationship with B. C. Ferries – which has replaced the gangway to the community’s boats, and are going to do a bit to the children’s playground.

Hill said he also spoke with Hahn about working together on a memorial for the two passengers who died in the incident.

“Hopefully, we will get around to that in Hartley Bay somehow, some way,” said Hill.

North Coast MLA Gary Coons said there was wide public support to name the vessel after the people of the small coastal community.

“It is apparent that those at the top of the corporate chain are not in touch with the many British Columbians that felt a new vessel should be named after the heroes of Hartley Bay,” said Coons.

Nor could Coons understand why public input wasn’t allowed into the naming of both the new vessels as it was with the new vessels for the Lower Mainland routes.

”I’m disappointed in the names that David Hahn chose. Once again we see the North treated differently than our neighbours to the south. The input from those that will travel the northern vessels for essential services and vital travel were totally ignored.”

B. C. Ferries held a three month contest to pick the names for the new Super C vessels – names that were to “signify the geographic area the company operates in; be original, creative and memorable; and be respectful to the community the vessels will serve.”

An advisory board comprised of local newspaper reporters and B. C. Ferries’ employees selected the names of the southern vessels after reviewing 7,602 entries submitted during the Name the Super C’s contest.

“Obviously CEO Hahn and the Ferry Board of Directors decided to unilaterally designate the new names for the Northern vessels with no concern for the communities that the vessels will operate in,” said Coons.

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