BC Ferries responds to COVID-19 concerns while customers adjust how they travel

WatchBC Ferries has stepped up cleaning and is trying to accommodate customers wanting to stay in their vehicles during sailings.

BC Ferries says it’s stepped up cleaning on its vessels in light of COVID-19 and the corporation is trying to accommodate people who want to remain in their vehicles during sailings.

The corporation says it stepped up cleaning several weeks ago and there is now staff dedicated to cleaning continually.

“This involves the cleaning of hard surfaces so items like handrails, the buttons in the elevators, the cafeteria tables and the pin pads at the cashiers for example,” said Deborah Marshall, BC Ferries Public Affairs Executive Director.

BC Ferries says it’s also providing information to employees about how to protect themselves and they have contingency plans.

“So that if there was a situation where a lot of our staff did become ill and had to call in sick then we’re seeing what we can do to backfill those positions,” said Marshall.

“Hopefully, we wouldn’t be in a situation where we’d have to cancel any sailings.”

“My greatest concern is that BC Ferries could be doing more,” said Graeme Johnston, BC Ferry & Marine Workers’ Union President.

Johnston says despite repeated requests, the union hasn’t been involved in the corporation’s contingency planning.

He’s also worried about employees, especially casual workers, who are returning from international trips and have symptoms.

“If you only give someone six sick days and you’re given a choice between paying rent and coming into work and maybe they think it’s only a minor cold,” said Johnston.

“You could see somebody coming in and inadvertently spreading something that’s not good.”

BC Ferries says if you do want to stay in your vehicle during sailing, request being loaded on the top deck.

“Customers are more than welcome to request the upper car deck but we’re not always able to accommodate all of the requests,” said Marshall.

At this point, Transport Canada says it’s not considering a relaxing of those rules.

At the Departure Bay terminal, Thursday worries over COVID-19 have passengers taking precautions.

“We’ll be staying in the car to avoid contact with people,” said Al Ruus, who is about to move to Vancouver Island from Calgary to retire.

“I’m planning on staying in my vehicle,” said Jennaya Robertson, a Duncan resident.

“I’m just going to keep my hands clean and keep my hands to myself,” said Wilfred Phillips, another BC Ferries customer.

As for whether BC Ferries travel has dropped with so many events being cancelled, the corporation says it’s too early to tell.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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