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BC Ferries passengers will soon have to leave their vehicles on enclosed decks

Last Updated Sep 9, 2020 at 10:06 pm PDT

FILE - BC Ferries. (Courtesy Twitter/BC Ferries)
Summary

You'll have to leave your vehicle while onboard a BC Ferries sailing starting Sept. 30

Transport Canada is putting back in place the restriction preventing passengers from staying in their cars

People will be allowed to stay in their cars on upper level of vessels that have an open upper, lower enclosed deck

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – You’ll have to leave your car while onboard most ferries in B.C. starting Sept. 30.

Transport Canada is putting back in place the restriction that prevents passengers from staying in their vehicles during sailings, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Passengers that are loaded onto the lower, closed car decks will, once again, be required to vacate their vehicles and proceed up into the passenger lounge areas of the vessels,” Darren Johnston, executive director, fleet operations, says.

Passengers will still be able to remain in their vehicles on the upper deck of larger vessels that have both an upper and lower — open and an enclosed — vehicle deck. Sixteen ships on routes between the mainland and Vancouver Island have upper, open vehicle decks, Johnston says.

Rules had been relaxed in the spring to help facilitate physical distancing on board vessels.

“Enclosed car decks are spaces that represent inherent risk to the travelling public,” a BC Ferries release reads. “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.”

Measures include increased cleaning, sanitization, and physical distancing protocols, as well as a mandatory mask policy.

Passengers are required to have and wear a face covering or non-medical mask while on board a ferry, except while they are in their vehicle or if they are eating or drinking.

People with medical conditions that prevent them from wearing a face covering and children under the age of two are exempt from the mask policy.

Public concern

Johnston says he understands people may have concerns about being forced to leave their vehicles amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, he notes it’s not up to BC Ferries.

“It’s not our decision to determine when this relaxation is lifted,” he tells NEWS 1130. “Any questions or concerns that people may have regarding the timing of the reimplementation of these regulations ought to be directed towards Transport Canada.”

He says adjustments are being made to operational procedures onboard BC Ferries ships.

In addition to the aforementioned measures, Johnston says some areas that were off limits amid the health crisis will be re-opened to increase capacity in lounges, “to ensure there is space for physical distancing.”

Johnston is asking passengers to continue practicing patience with staff as the changes occur.