Top News

Bay Ferries navigating COVID-19 waters

The Cat ferry sits docked at the ferry terminal in Yarmouth during a previous season. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
The Cat ferry sits docked at the ferry terminal in Yarmouth during a previous season. - Tina Comeau/SaltWire Network


Bay Ferries is among those navigating the ever-changing COVID-19 situation, which has the company continuing to make adjustments to its current operations while looking ahead to crossings scheduled for later on.

The company is following provincial state of emergency and Public Health guidelines and Transport Canada directives. The latest interim order from Transport Canada relating to ferries became effective April 6 and states ferries can operate providing they immediately reduce by 50 per cent the maximum number of passengers on board to support the two-metre physical distancing rule; or implement alternative practices to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 (consistent with Public Health Agency of Canada guidelines) among passengers on board their vessels, such as keeping people in their vehicles, when feasible, or enhanced cleaning and hygiene measures.

“Measures already put in place by our company, including the limitation of passenger capacity to approximately 25 per cent of normal capacity, bring us into compliance with Transport Canada’s requirements for ongoing operations,” said Bay Ferries CEO Mark MacDonald when asked about the ongoing situation.

Northumberland Ferries runs between Wood Islands, P.E.I. and Caribou, N.S.
Northumberland Ferries runs between Wood Islands, P.E.I. and Caribou, N.S.

The Fundy Rose sailing between Digby, N.S. and Saint John, N.B. has been operating at a reduced capacity of 200 people, including crew, instead of the normal capacity of 774 passengers. Cleaning and disinfection practices have increased and food services have been removed. The Fundy Rose has a mandated check-in at ticket booths to keep people out of the terminal buildings. Passengers are screened for health and travel information. Anyone exhibiting flu-like symptoms or anyone who has been in contact with a person confirmed to have (or is being tested for) COVID-19 is not allowed to cross. International truck drivers are given red badges to identify them as passengers who have crossed the Canada/U.S. boarder within the past 14 days and as such should be self-isolating. There are designated zones for passenger and truckers onboard.

The next ferry service slated to start up for Bay Ferries/Northumberland Ferries Ltd. sails between Caribou, N.S. and Wood Islands, P.E.I. The website indicates that service is scheduled to start on May 1, but schedule information has yet to be included. Measures similar to the ones now in place on the Digby service will be in place here too, with lower passenger loads, social distancing measures, pre-screening for travel and health, etc. The PEI and NS governments also each have rules for people entering their provinces, including self-isolating directives. Bay Ferries has posted all of the measures in place on its website for the Digby-Saint John service and will do the same the PEI-NS service as operational plans are refined.

A summer crossing from Digby NS to Saint John NB on board the Fundy Rose ferry. - Tina Comeau
A summer crossing from Digby NS to Saint John NB on board the Fundy Rose ferry. - Tina Comeau

As for The Cat ferry that sails between Maine and Nova Scotia, Bay Ferries is still looking to June 26 as the target start-up date.  

“Obviously, as the world is changing by the day, factors could arise which impact this, or our construction in Bar Harbor. But our plan is to reopen the Yarmouth gateway and to support tourism operators all around the province,” said MacDonald.

The Nova Scotia government has budgeted $16.3 million this year for its ferry service. Asked what would happen if the ferry can’t operate due to the COVID-19 situation MacDonald said, “This question should really be directed to the province of Nova Scotia as we are operating the ferry service for them.”

A transport truck drives onto the Fundy Rose ferry prior to a summer crossing between Digby, N.S. and Saint John, N.B. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
A transport truck drives onto the Fundy Rose ferry prior to a summer crossing between Digby, N.S. and Saint John, N.B. TINA COMEAU PHOTO

When asked, Peter McLaughlin, with the N.S. Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, said, “It is too early for us to comment on future challenges or decisions related to COVID-19 that are still a number of months out.”

As of April 8, MacDonald said Bay Ferries was ironing out operation plans and had not yet had to lay off employees. 

“We will monitor demand as we move forward. We are considered by provincial governments to be essential service, so we are making every effort to stay in business to support the economy,” he said, adding, “I want to take this opportunity to thank our employees and contractors (in P.E.I., Pictou County, Digby, Saint John, Yarmouth, Bar Harbor and Charleston, S.C.) for their willingness to work in difficult circumstances and to undertake the many necessary safety precautions. We are proud of their work for our communities and the economy.”

RELATED:

Did this story inform or enhance your perspective on this subject?
1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

Recent Stories