Ferry service between P.E.I. and Nova Scotia will soon be returning to a seven-day schedule.
Northumberland Ferries Ltd. has been operating over the past few weeks but only for essential travel, which basically boils down to commercial traffic between Monday and Friday.
However, the premiers of P.E.I., New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador announced the long-delayed travel bubble on Wednesday which will allow travel between the provinces without the requirement of a 14-day quarantine, beginning on Friday, July 3.
Don Cormier, vice-president operations and safety management for Northumberland Ferries Ltd., said Thursday they are going over COVID-19 management plans to ensure public safety — and that includes stepping up sanitation efforts.
“Currently, we are consulting with the various governments to work out the details and the detailed procedures for screening and for making bookings,’’ Cormier said. “We’re reviewing all of our plans to make sure they are consistent with all public health orders and we’ll be advising our customers in more detail with what’s involved there.’’
While it's not mandatory, anyone who plans on taking the ferry as of July 3 is being asked to book ahead, even walk-ons. This will help the company to do contact tracing.
Cormier said while the daily schedule hasn’t been finalized, he expects both the MV Confederation and MV Holiday Island to operate.
Reviewing the management plan means determining with public health what the capacity will be for the two ships. Cormier can’t say what that will be but expects news will be released shortly.
“We will need to ensure that we are complying with physical distancing requirements. We can expect there to be reduced passenger complements.’’
As for the onboard amenities, Cormier said the restaurant will be opening, but service will be limited compared to the past. He added that Northumberland Ferries Ltd. hasn’t had any conversations yet with Cows Creamery as to whether the Cows ice cream shop will operate on the MV Confederation.
“People can expect that it ... won’t be business as usual.’’
Even though the service has been restricted to five days per week and has only been handling essential travel, Cormier said the boats have been busy.
“We’ve been accommodating over 400 trucks a week on a limited schedule. Commercial traffic has been very steady ... it’s been really busy, and we expect that trend to continue. We think this Atlantic bubble will result in a fair amount of traffic.’’