Coho and Clipper ferry service may be docked for the rest of the year

Coho and Clipper ferry service may be docked for the rest of the year
WatchThe two ferry services operating from the United States into Victoria's harbour may suspend their services this year, and possibly into 2021.

For the last 60 years, the Blackball Ferry Lines MV Coho ferry has sailed daily into Victoria’s harbour from its home berth in Port Angeles.

But this year is different. The sailings are suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Co-owner of Blackball Ferry Lines Ryan Burles said he remains optimistic, but is also realistic about its return.

“We’re always looking for some hope, so you know we realistically suspended service until the end of the month and pending months forward. But realistically knowing that maybe at best, you know, the New Year,” Burles said.

Restrictions on nonessential travel due to the COVID-19 andemic will likely be extended to December and potentially beyond, according to Destination BC CEO Marsh Walden.

“Our new scenario also assumes that international borders will, effectively, remain closed to non-essential travel during 2020. And we’ve seen that echoed by our premier’s remarks on several occasions,” Walden said in a conference call to tourism operators on May 21.

Earlier this month, the Victoria Clipper announced its return to operations beginning on July 3. But with news the borders remain closed means those dates for the ferry returning to service are likely scuttled, according to Clipper Vacations CEO David Gudgel.

“We’re eager to get back into service in some normalcy. But I want everyone to know that we are not going to do that until we’re invited and until it’s safe. And both sides of the border that the service is wanted and needed,” Gudgel said.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said the two ferries are critical links.

“So it really is going to hurt not having visitors coming from Washington State this summer,” Helps said.

For now, Burles said the hope is that the company survives and the Coho will sail again.

“We want to keep this link and continue to operate. That’s what our focus is and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Burles said.

At the height of its operations, the Coho employs 130 full and part-time workers, and the Clipper employs 200 full-time staff during the summer.


Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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