Border closure stops US based ferries from south Vancouver Island

WatchThe U.S.-Canada border closure is creating choppy waters for many businesses, including the three ferries that operate between south Vancouver Island and the United States.

In a typical year, the Coho ferry’s summer schedule would be shifting into high gear now for the sailings between Victoria and Port Angeles.

Each year, the Black Ball Ferry Line shuttles 130,000 cars and about 470,000 people annually on the M.V. Coho.

The Coho had tentatively rescheduled sailings for July 31st, but that will probably be extended.

“Realistically, you’re looking, you know, months and months out,” Ryan Burle, president of the Black Ball Ferry Line said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the Canada and US border closure will be extended to July 21 earlier this week.

But the CEO of the Black Ball Ferry Line says there may not be any ferries this year, and likely not until next spring.

It’s the same picture with the passenger ferry, the Clipper. Clipper CEO David Gudgel said sailings remain tied up between Seattle and Victoria.

“We would certainly like to be able to operate at some point this fall to reestablish the business. I guess, worst-case scenario is we wouldn’t operate until next spring,” Gudgel said.

The Washington State ferry that runs from Sidney to Anacortes is also suspending all sailings until further notice with news of the extension of the border closure, another blow to the Vancouver Island economy.

It’s part of a pattern impacting every sector of the tourism industry, according to Bruce Williams, Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO.

“Well, this summer has already been devastating for the tourism sector,” he said.

Without the estimated 800,000 Americans arriving on the three U.S.-based ferries this year, Williams said it’s time for some for financial help.

“The more time that goes on when the borders are closed, which is for safety reasons, of course, but if a relief is not brought forward by government, the sector and its employees, and the impact it has on people who are directly and indirectly employing tourism is huge,” Williams said.

As of Wednesday, there were 1,226 deaths among 26,784 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Washington state. 

RELATED STORY: COVID-19: 19 new cases in B.C., no new cases in Island Health

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