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BC Ferries expects more volume after COVID-19 cancels summer schedule

Last Updated Sep 4, 2020 at 8:00 am PDT

FILE (Courtesy Twitter.BC Ferries)

BC Ferries says it anticipates 'constant' volume on sailings through the long weekend

BC Ferries has been unable to bring in its summer sailing schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic

People travelling to or from Vancouver Island are being urged to plan ahead

TSAWWASSEN (NEWS 1130) – Despite lower ridership and fewer sailings amid the COVID-19 pandemic, BC Ferries is urging you to plan ahead as it expects more people trying to take advantage of the last weeks before school starts.

BC Ferries says traffic volume is down about 20 per cent over last year, but it’s anticipating more traffic through the long weekend.

It’s warning passengers about volume being “constant” through Labour Day.

“So if anybody is planning to travel with BC Ferries, do check out our website,” the company’s Deborah Marshall says.

Normally, BC Ferries would have brought in its full summer schedule to deal with higher traffic volumes. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was unable to do so.

“We weren’t able to hire the number of summer seasonals that we normally do,” Marshall explains, adding BC Ferries has tried its best to alleviate some demand.

BC Ferries has added hundreds of extra sailings over the summer months, and says it’s doing what it can to deal with the additional volume.

“I know that our crews onboard are trying to maximize the stow by making sure we can carry significant number of vehicles and whatnot,” Marshall says.

However, she notes there is a cap on the number of passengers allowed on a ferry, adding Transport Canada regulations amid the COVID-19 pandemic mean the vessels can only carry about 75 per cent of their usual loads.

“So, we are seeing some overloads for foot passengers, as well,” Marshall adds.

If you’re planning a trip that requires a ferry sailing, Marshall is urging you to check the BC Ferries website ahead of time, make a reservation if you can, and travel during off-peak times, if possible.

“August does tend to be one of the busiest months for us. We’ve got beautiful weather, so lots of people are travelleing,” Marshall tells NEWS 1130. “What we are seeing, lots of British Columbians are doing staycations, so we are seeing folks coming over from Metro Vancouver to Vancouver Island, as well as the Sunshine Coast. And, of course, we are seeing Vancouver Island residents heading over to Vancouver and points beyond.”

Passengers are reminded that non-medical masks and face coverings are now mandatory onboard all BC Ferries vessels. People must be willing to wear a mask or face covering at all times, Marshall adds, except if they are in their vehicles or are eating or drinking in the cafeteria.

Children under two years old and people with underlying medical conditions that prevent them from wearing a mask are exempt from the policy.