(BC Ferries/Twitter)

Effective noon on Monday, BC Ferries will start screening passengers for COVID-19 symptoms or recent international travel before allowing them to board, as a measure to limit the spread of the virus.

The changes come after federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced on Sunday that all commercial marine vessels with the capacity of 12 or more passengers will stop non-essential activities, such as tourism or recreation.

As part of the new measures, Transport Canada has issued guidelines for screening all passengers boarding sailings that last longer than 30 minutes.

“Vessel operators should, where possible and practical, observe and do a health check of all passengers before they board the vessel,” the guideline reads. Travellers will be asked four questions by ferry staff.

These questions will include whether the travellers have a fever, a cough, and/or difficulty breathing, and if they have been refused boarding in the past 14 days due to a medical reason related to the coronavirus.

Anyone who answers in the affirmative or does not provide an answer will be denied boarding. Prior to the brief interview, passengers will be informed of the requirement to answer truthfully.

Additionally on Friday, BC Ferries announced it would be halting several major sailings and reduced their capacity by half amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This will help support the practice of physical distancing onboard vessels, according to the company.

These changes took effect on Saturday and will last at least 60 days. BC Ferries says ridership is down by 80 per cent.

Service adjustments include:

  • Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen to Duke Point will be reduced to 4 round trips per day, instead of 8.
  • 4 additional cargo-only sailings between Tsawwassen and Duke Point will be instated to facilitate the flow of essential goods and services between Vancouver Island and the mainland.
  • The Langdale to Horseshoe Bay service will be reduced to 6 round trips per day instead of 8.
  • The Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo, and Mill Bay to Brentwood Bay routes are suspended completely.
  • Northern and mid-coast communities will see services continue at the current off-peak levels. The summer direct service between Bella Coola and Port Hardy will not be introduced at this time.

Changes in the sailings to the Southern Gulf Islands from Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay terminals are currently being finalized and will be announced soon. The remaining routes are unchanged for now.

Schedule Adjustments Effective Saturday, April 4th:

  • Tsawwassen – Swartz Bay (Vancouver – Victoria) will operate with four departures
    from each terminal daily:

    • Exit Swartz Bay: 9am, 1pm, 3pm and 7pm
    • Exit Tsawwassen: 7am, 11am, 5pm, 9pm
  • Tsawwassen – Duke Point (Vancouver – Nanaimo) route will operate with four
    departures from each terminal daily:

    • Exit Tsawwassen: 7:45am, 12:45pm, 5:45pm, 10:45pm
    • Exit Duke Point: 5:15am, 10:15am, 3:15pm, 8:15pm
  • Tsawwassen – Duke Point (Vancouver – Nanaimo) route will operate with four
    CARGO ONLY departures from each terminal Monday through Friday. These sailings
    are reserved for the movement of commercial goods and essential service workers.
    Schedule as follows:

    • Exit Tsawwassen: 5:15am, 10:15am, 3:15pm, 8:15pm
    • Exit Duke Point: 7:45am, 12:45pm, 5:45pm, 10:45pm
  • Horseshoe Bay – Langdale (West Vancouver – Sunshine Coast) route will operate
    with six departures from each terminal daily:

    • Exit Langdale: 6:20am, 8:40am, 10:50am, 3:15pm, 5:25pm, 7:40pm
    • Exit Horseshoe Bay: 7:30am, 9:45am, 11:55am, 4:20pm, 6:35pm, 8:45pm
  • Inside Passage-Central Coast-Bella Coola and Haida Gwaii Schedules

The new measures will be in place until at least June 30th.

With files from Brishti Basu