BC Ferries’ Northern Expedition docks in Skidegate. (Haida Gwaii Observer/File photo)

Northern BC Ferries passengers must clear vehicles during sailing

Company clarifies exception over COVID-19 concerns applicable to southern vessels only

BC Ferries passengers are still barred from self-isolating in their vehicles during sailings on northern routes, the company has clarified.

In a press release March 16, which this newspaper reported, BC Ferries stated the restriction on all enclosed car decks was being lifted with Transport Canada’s approval to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. However todayspokesperson Deborah Marshall said the temporary exception to the policy will not apply to the Northern Adventure and Northern Expedition on routes between Haida Gwaii, Prince Rupert and Port Hardy.

“Our passenger counts this time of year are so low, while the ships are so large, that it allows passengers to practice self-distancing from each other,” she said.

READ MORE: B.C. declares state of emergency, recalling legislature for COVID-19

Those with respiratory ailments and other pre-existing health conditions can speak with the chief steward who will evaluate passengers on a case-by-case basis to find suitable sailing arrangements.

On March 17 BC Ferries also announced hot meals would no longer be served on vessels in an effort to keep the crowds to a minimum, but again this will not apply to northern routes.

READ MORE: 45 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., bringing total to 231

“It’s because the northern voyages are so long. People need to eat. But we are encouraging people to use electronic forms of payment, whether that’s credit card or debit card, to help with social distancing and cross contamination [on bank notes].”

Currently there are no service interruptions expected for the northern routes. In the event passenger service is shut down, Marshal said freight and cargo service will continue to Haida Gwaii and other remote communities.

“We know how isolated they are, and how much they rely on us for groceries and everything else,” she said.

It has always been BC Ferries’ policy for passengers to clear the enclosed vehicle deck on northern ships. In the south, where those decks are not as tightly sealed, this policy was introduced about two years ago.

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