BC Ferries loosening restrictions and increasing capacity

   July 13, 2020 ,   Cruise Industry

The Canadian state-owned company BC Ferries announced it is increasing passenger capacity and loosening travel restrictions within Canada's British Columbia province.

Passenger numbers have risen to ~70% (over 2019), according to the company's communications manager Tessa Humphries. In March (the early days of the pandemic) they were ~20% of normal.

Passenger capacity had been capped at 50%, but the restriction is being phased out to increase service.

The level was set by Transport Canada, which offered operators a choice between implementing enhanced cleaning and physical-distancing measures and limiting capacity.

Humphries said that BC Ferries implemented both measures at first but had decided to phase out the capacity limit. The company had consulted with Transport Canada on the change.

Enhanced physical distancing and cleaning protocols, such as face coverings and clear plastic barriers, remain in place. Travelers are asked whether they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms before sailing, and those in vehicles are allowed to remain inside the cars.

More than 300 sailings a month have been added on major routes between the Island and Lower Mainland since the beginning of June. The company is aiming to keep the capacity about 20% above demand, Humphries revealed.

BC Ferries expects it will take a couple of years before passenger numbers return to pre-COVID levels.

Onboard food services resumed on some minor routes, including Swartz Bay-Gulf Islands. The onboard Passages Gift Shop reopened on July 10 on the route Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen. Limited hot food and packaged food resumed in June on 3 major routes between the Island and Lower Mainland.

Lands End Cafe (at Swartz Bay ferry terminal) also reopened. Markets at the ferry terminals Departure Bay and Tsawwassen reopened in late-June.

The drop in ferry traffic cost BC Ferries millions in lost revenue. The company is evaluating the financial impact daily. Reopening onboard amenities is expected to provide another revenue stream.