After initially suspending services this summer, the Victoria Clipper V has announced today that they will not resume sailings between Victoria and Seattle until April 30, 2021.
The ferry service initially cancelled sailings on March 17, after which the suspension was extended several times as the Canada-U.S. border remains closed to non-essential travellers.
The company had planned to relaunch ferry services in July 2020, but given the continued border closure, extended 14-day quarantine requirement for travellers, and general uncertainty surrounding the evolution of the pandemic, the decision was made to cancel all services this year.
According to a statement from the Victoria Clipper, the significant loss of revenue during the summer—peak travel times—makes it unrealistic for the company to offer year-round service.
“We wholeheartedly agree with the steps and health precautions taken by Canadian and U.S. government officials to date to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission through non-essential travel,” said David Gudgel, CEO of Clipper.
“Our intent in suspending operations is to hopefully allow ample time to pass so that we may return to service next spring when travel across the border is safe and welcomed once again.”
In accordance with the Collective Agreement between Clipper Navigation, Inc. and Unifor Local 114, Clipper’s Canadian union employees will continue on temporary layoff into the anticipated return to service date of April 30, 2021.
The company’s Seattle employees will be furloughed until the return to service.
MV Coho ferry not ruling out winter service
For their part, Black Ball Ferry Line which operates the MV Coho that offers sailings between Victoria and Port Angeles, WA has not ruled out winter service.
According to company President Ryan Burles, their sailing cancellation has been extended until the end of August in accordance with the Canadian government’s 14-day quarantine requirement for travellers.
Depending on whether the border closure and quarantine requirements are extended or not, Black Ball Ferry Line is not ruling out service over the winter months.
But like the Victoria Clipper, the company has taken a major hit to their finances due to loss of revenue over the summer.
“We basically make money six months of the year and lose money other times, so not being able to operate in the summer obviously is a large blow,” said Burles in a phone call with Victoria Buzz.
Fortunately, Burles says, the company does have a nest egg to fall back on, but that requires close monitoring.
For employees in the U.S., the business enrolled in a program that allowed them to pay them for eight weeks in May and June. For Canadian full-time employees, the company supplemented their income loss with $1,000 payments per month—that ended in June.
Nearly all employees have been laid off, apart from a skeleton staff hired to maintain the ship.