BC Ferries is informing customers that as of Sept. 30, 2020, Transport Canada is rescinding the temporary flexibility it granted to ferry operators allowing passengers to remain in their vehicle on enclosed vehicle decks. Transport Canada granted this flexibility in the spring in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
BC Ferries must comply with Transport Canada regulations and the company supports the regulation and its intent. Enclosed car decks are spaces that represent inherent risk to the travelling public. During the pandemic these risks were mitigated with additional safety procedures and patrols. However, Transport Canada has now advised BC Ferries that measures have been developed and implemented to prevent the spread of the disease in all transportation modes and businesses across Canada. They have further advised the marine safety case for ending the practice of permitting people to remain in their vehicles on enclosed car deck is clear.
BC Ferries has implemented the measures to which Transport Canada refers above. This includes additional cleaning, sanitization, physical distancing and mandatory wearing of face coverings while at the terminal and onboard the vessel. The company will also reopen certain areas of the vessels, such as the Pacific Buffet area on the Spirit Class vessels, for seating only, as a way to provide passengers more space for physical distancing. Buffet food service is not being reintroduced at this time.
“Safety is our highest value and we provide a safe and healthy travel experience. Customers are legally required to comply with this federal regulation,” said Mark Collins, BC Ferries’ President & CEO. “We expect our customers to follow the law and we continue to have zero tolerance policy for abuse of any kind towards our employees. Failure to follow the direction of our crew or abuse towards an employee may result in denial of service and Transport Canada enforcement measures.”
When Transport Canada rescinds the temporary flexibility on Sept. 30, BC Ferries will implement its procedures for the regulation on affected routes, which are:
- Tsawwassen – Swartz Bay
- Tsawwassen – Duke Point
- Horseshoe Bay – Departure Bay
- Powell River – Comox
- Tsawwassen – Southern Gulf Islands
The temporary flexibility to the regulation was not implemented to northern routes between Port Hardy and Prince Rupert and Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii, and so those routes remain unchanged.
On the Horseshoe Bay – Langdale route, BC Ferries has approval from Transport Canada to safely allow passengers to remain on the main vehicle deck following modifications to the vessels and procedures. This does not apply to any other routes.
BC Ferries’ crew will inform passengers on closed car decks of their responsibility to comply with Transport Canada’s regulation. Access restrictions to enclosed vehicle decks will not apply when passengers are directed by announcement to return to their vehicles before the vessel docks. On larger vessels with both an upper (open) and lower (enclosed) vehicle deck, customers will still be able to remain in their vehicles on the upper vehicle deck.