A Nanaimo-based bus company is questioning a decision made this spring that awarded a Victoria business a short-term contract to provide free shuttle service for cruise ship passengers into Nanaimo's downtown core.
Petra Tschauner, operations director for Smith Transportation Ltd., said her company is bothered that the Nanaimo Port Authority hired CVS Cruise Victoria for the route, especially since one of the buses carry advertising for Victoria destinations like Butchart Gardens and the label 'CVS Victoria.'
Up to five buses transport passengers from the NPA's cruise ship terminal building into a four-stop route that runs along the downtown via Front Street, up into the Old City Quarter and then back to the cruise ship terminal. The shuttles run every five to seven minutes.
Tschauner said Smith Transportation runs charters throughout Vancouver Island and also has experience shuttling cruise ship passengers on behalf of private tour operators. She said the NPA did not approach her company for a quote to supply the transit service.
"The biggest issue is tourists getting off the ship, thinking they're in Nanaimo, and getting on buses that say they're in Victoria," she said.
"I guess the main question is, why (is NPA) bypassing Nanaimo local companies.. .?" she said.
NPA president and CEO Bernie Dumas said the federal authority had been using public buses to shuttle passengers from cruise ships in the past, but said the NPA was told by the local transit authority that it would not be able to service cruise ships docked in Nanaimo during the middle of the week.
Dumas said the NPA learned this about a week before the next ship was due to arrive in mid-May. That left the NPA scrambling to find a bus company that could handle the request. He said CVS Cruise Victoria fit the bill, given that it already services cruise ship traffic in Victoria.
"What we ended up doing because we were stressed to find a solution was to grab somebody who's already engaged in the cruise business ... and we only had four ships for the season, so we threw it at them, and they've done a tremendous job," he said.
Dumas said he has approached Smith Transportation to submit a proposal for 2014.
CVS Cruise Victoria managing director Gary Gale said it is "quite commonplace" for bus companies to operate in multiple jurisdictions. Both companies work in Nanaimo and Victoria, he added.
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