The Victoria Clipper has announced it will be suspending service immediately until April 30 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Victoria Clipper V sails between the Capital Regional District and Seattle, Wash. – one of North America’s biggest epicentres for outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
“Despite receiving support and encouragement to continue service with proper sanitation and social distancing measures from BC’s Ministry of Health, Clipper has opted to proactively stop service for the time being as a preventative measure of public health and safety,” a press release from the company said.
The immediate suspension of operations means that Unifor Local 114, the Clipper’s Canadian union employees, will be placed on temporary layoff as of March 24.
“Our number one priority and concern as a business is the health and safety of our employees, staff, crew, passengers and the greater public,” said David Gudgel, CEO of Clipper. “We want to do our part in helping curb the public spread of coronavirus and feel it is imperative to halt immediate vessel operations. We will assess our return to service based on both U.S. and Canadian government and health official regulations and guidance.”
Employees will be recalled as operation demand ramps up and service resumes toward the end of next month.
“This is an unprecedented event for Clipper, our region of operations and the world at large,” said Gudgel. “The loyalty and commitment of our Victoria employees is incredible and our hope and full intention is to bring every one of these employees back to work and restart vessel operations as quickly as possible.”
Victoria citizens had already raised concerns about the Clipper continuing to operate as it creates a direct link to Washington state, which has seen over 45 deaths and 900 confirmed cases of the deadly virus.
As for employees of Unifor 114, the one week waiting period for employment insurance has already been waived by the federal government, however, just earlier today BC Minister of Finance, Carole James added that there is a push from the provincial government for further changes to the EI process to benefit residents.