Normal service resumes, but security heightened in wake of weekend threat
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JEFF HODSON/METRO VANCOUVER
B.C. Ferries was on heightened alert yesterday after a non-specific bomb threat grounded 21 sailings the previous day.
The threat left thousands of travellers stranded for as long as five hours as police officers with bomb-sniffing dogs scoured the terminal, vessels, vehicles and passengers.
B.C. Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall said staff was on “heightened vigilance“ yesterday but wouldn’t discuss specifics out of a fear of compromising security.
She did, however, say that a bomb threat was one of the scenarios that crews train for.
“Security is very important,” she said. “Since 9/11 we’ve been working with the RCMP on improving our security. And we’re continuing to do so.”
For the most part, people waiting for the ferry yesterday seemed unconcerned about the possible danger and seemed more worried about a disruption to travel plans.
“I’m glad it was (Saturday) and not today,” said Nick Colman, 25, who was returning to the Island yesterday from a weekend baseball tournament in Kelowna.
“I didn’t want to be caught all day in a cancelled ferry line.”
Wally Plumpton, who was also travelling yesterday, said he empathized with people who missed flights and travel connections.
“It’s not funny, it’s very serious.”
The threat, called in from a pay phone at Coquitlam Centre Mall around 3:30 p.m. Saturday, was not specific to a particular vessel, but rather threatened, “a vessel departing Tsawwassen terminal,” Marshall said.
B.C. Ferries runs eight vessels out of the terminal, four to Swartz Bay, two to Nanaimo and two to the Southern Gulf Islands.
The Queen of New Westminster, which had already departed the terminal, was called back to port.
Passengers from it, as well as the docked Queen of Vancouver, were offloaded and confined to the terminal cafeteria, while Delta Police searched the vessels.
In all, 21 sailings were cancelled, Marshall said. Service to Victoria was returned around 8:30 p.m. But trips from Tsawwassen to Duke Point (Nanaimo) were cancelled and an extra sailing was added from Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay.
Ferry service was returned to normal first thing yesterday morning and by the afternoon lineups was beginning to build.
“We are starting to see some overloads now, but that’s quite typical of a Sunday in the summertime,” Marshall said.