Ferry rate hikes irk opposition

The proposal to raise fares for BC Ferries by as much as 20 per cent on major routes such as the Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay run is a clear betrayal of the public interest, says Scott Fraser.

The German liner SS General von Steuben took over 3

The German liner SS General von Steuben took over 3

The proposal to raise fares for BC Ferries by as much as 20 per cent on major routes such as the Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay run is a clear betrayal of the public interest, says Scott Fraser.

The Alberni-Pacific Rim MLA said this week the plan comes as a direct result of the ferry system being turned over to the private sector.

“The fact is, a marine highway is an efficient form of transportation in every jurisdiction in the world and should be considered part of our B.C. highway system — not be run as a private corporation,” he said. “It’s not even an effective corporation. What it’s doing is hindering access to and from Vancouver Island. It’s being operated in the complete opposite of the public interest.”

This week BC Ferries CEO David Hahn speculated that, unless the government coughs up increased subsidies, fare hikes as high as 100 per cent on some northern routes may be necessary.

• MP James Lunney says he believes the economic benefit of the recreational halibut sector should play a bigger role when deciding how to divide up the fishery.

“By far the highest value sector is sports and recreation, at $550 million annually, while the commercial sector is about $230 million,” Lunney said. “No question, we need the commercial sector, but it seems at a time of economic challenge, we want to make sure our communities benefit from the highest value of the resource for the maximum number of people.”

The halibut quota allocation has become a hot issue this season, due to recreation and sports fishers being allowed to take well in excess of their 12 per cent allocation — compared to 88 per cent for the commercial sector — sparking concerns that this year’s allocation sports allocation would be lowered in order to make up the difference, meaning a shortened season for anglers.

Overall, recreational fishermen caught 112,000 pounds more last season than they were allowed to under the seven-year-old allocation agreement.

Rather than lower this year’s catch allocation, Lunney said he favours changing the overall allocation ratio.

“I’m recommending a shift in the allotment to expand the public sector to about 20 per cent,” he said. “That would take the crisis out this year and give room for this season and stabilize the situation.”

Wreck of the week

Most people know of Operation Dynamo, the successful evacuation of troops from the beaches of Dunkirk during Britain’s darkest days of the Second World War.

However, few remember the even more successful Operation Hannibal, which saw over two million Germans evacuated ahead of the Soviet Army’s advance into East Prussia and Danzig.

Among the flotilla of ships ferrying Axis submariners, soldiers, refugees and support staff was the SS General von Steuben, a former German luxury liner carrying 2,800 wounded German soldiers, 800 refugees, 100 returning soldiers, 270 navy medical personnel, 12 nurses, 64 anti-aircraft gunners, 61 navy personnel and 160 merchant navy crewmen — 4,267 souls in all.

Just after midnight on Feb. 10, 1945, two torpedoes from the Soviet submarine S-13 slammed into the liner and she sank within 20 minutes, taking all but 300 people to a watery grave.