Passengers on BC Ferries will soon no longer have the option of remaining in their vehicles on enclosed car decks.
The ferry corporation announced today Transport Canada is ending this temporary flexibility granted on March 17 to provide passengers with the ability to better practice physical distancing amidst the pandemic. This option for passengers will end on September 30.
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According to a release, federal transportation regulators have advised BC Ferries that the most recent measures developed and implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in all transportation modes and businesses no longer necessitate passengers to remain in their vehicles on enclosed car decks.
The policies include additional cleaning, sanitization, physical distancing, and the mandatory wearing of face masks or coverings at terminals and onboard vessels.
As well, certain areas of the vessels will now reopen for seating only to provide passengers with more space for physical distancing, such as the Pacific Buffet area on the Spirit Class vessels but without buffet food service.
The ban on enclosed car decks was first implemented in October 2017, abiding with Transport Canada’s policy changes to address their perceived high risk of passengers being trapped in cases of fire or other emergencies.
The enclosed car deck ban will be implemented on the Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay, Tsawwassen-Duke Point, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay, Powell River-Comox, and Tsawwassen-Southern Gulf Islands routes.
But BC Ferries has received permission from Transport Canada to safely allow passengers to remain on the main vehicle deck after modifications to the vessels and procedures.
“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, president and CEO of BC Ferries, in a statement.
“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.”