The Black Ball Ferry Line shuttles approximately 130,000 cars every year, which is the equivalent of about 470,000 people arriving in Victoria from Port Angeles via the M.V. Coho ferry.
Due to the border between Canada and the U.S. has been closed since March 2020, however, the Inner Harbour remains quiet and the impact is felt across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
“The Black Ball ferry Port Angeles is more than an economic driver, it’s also a cultural thing for us locally,” said Marc Abshire, executive director with the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce.
Thousands travel to the U.S. from Vancouver Island for events such as the annual CrabFest in October or, they head to Olympic National Park for hiking and camping.
The economic loss to Port Angeles is significant.
“The most recent economic impact study that was done, it was in 2019,” said Abshire. “It showed about $60 million of economic positive impact for our local economy here in the Port Angeles area.”
However, during the pandemic, the M.V. Coho ferry remains tied up in Port Angeles. Black Ball Ferry Line says the ship is only taken out for a run every six weeks to ensure it’s still sea-worthy.
Most of the staff live in the Clallam County area in Washington State, but keeping them on the payroll is expensive while waiting for the borders to re-open.
“It’s not been easy,” said Ryan Burles, president of Black Ball Ferry Line. “We’ve picked up the health care of our employees from the beginning. We’ve kept the ship up and so there’s financial costs.”
At the moment, Washington State is on track to reopen on June 30 or earlier. In order to do so, it will need to hit its target of 70 per cent fully vaccinated residents in order to lift COVID-19 restrictions.
British Columbians will learn when they can expect to see a lifting of restrictions at the beginning of next week, however, it may take into the fall before travelling between Port Angeles and Victoria starts back up.
“We all want the border open but we want to have that border open when it’s safe to do so,” said Burles.
Slowly but surely, as the case numbers decline, the chances are increasing that borders will safely re-open in the future.