BC Ferries has shut down food services on its northern routes. The announcement March 20 is the latest in an almost-daily amendment or cancellation of services as the company keeps up with government edicts and passenger needs amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The northern routes receive special attention from BC Ferries because they are serviced by large ships with small passenger counts this time of year, allowing for social distancing and other measures passengers can take to prevent the spread of the disease.
Here are the latest notices:
On March 16 the northern routes were spared from BC Ferries decision to cut food services, as was made in the south. A spokesperson said the company recognized the long journeys on the north coast warranted the continuation of meals for passengers.
But during the COVID-19 situation, customers have changed their food purchasing habits, resulting in a “tremendous” amount of wasted food, said BC Ferries.
Vending machines are still in operation.
Gift shops, lounges, kids zones and arcades have been shut down throughout the fleet until further notice.
As of March 20 BC Ferries will continue to offer baggage service on its northern routes. The company ended this service in the south March 18 to prevent the spread of infectious disease and said the continuation of the service in the north could change as the COVID-19 situation evolves.
Enclosed car decks
BC Ferries passengers are still barred from self-isolating in their vehicles during sailings on northern routes, the company has clarified.
In a press release March 16, which this newspaper reported, BC Ferries stated the restriction on all enclosed car decks was being lifted with Transport Canada’s approval to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. However on March 18 spokesperson Deborah Marshall said the temporary exception to the policy will not apply to the Northern Adventure and Northern Expedition on routes between Haida Gwaii, Prince Rupert and Port Hardy.
“Our passenger counts this time of year are so low, while the ships are so large, that it allows passengers to practice self-distancing from each other,” she said.
Those with respiratory ailments and other pre-existing health conditions can speak with the chief steward who will evaluate passengers on a case-by-case basis to find suitable sailing arrangements.
Cargo and freight
Currently there are no service interruptions expected for the northern routes. In the event passenger service is shut down, Marshal said freight and cargo service will continue to Haida Gwaii and other remote communities.
“We know how isolated they are, and how much they rely on us for groceries and everything else,” she said.