(Black Press Media files)

(Black Press Media files)

Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

Transport Canada has no plans to allow passengers to remain on enclosed car decks, the agency told Black Press Media by email Wednesday (Jan. 20).

The statement was in response to a letter sent by the president of the BC Ferry and Marine Workers’ Union.

In it, Graeme Johnston said that with new, more transmissible variants of COVID-19 spreading in Canada, the risk to passengers and crew from more people on passenger decks was too high and that the agency should allow passengers to remain on enclosed decks as it did early on in the pandemic. BC Ferries allowed passengers to remain on enclosed ferry decks from March 17 to September 30 of last year, per Transport Canada regulations.

READ MORE: BC Ferries asks travellers to spread out on vessels during a busy long weekend

“The COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7 is thought to be 30-70 per cent more infectious than the current dominant strain of COVID-19 in Canada, and has devastated several European countries despite their stringent lockdown measures,” Johnston wrote.

“We believe developments related to the spread of more infectious variants of COVID-19 should, at a minimum, initiate a review of the current risk assessments for Canadian passenger vessels.”

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

The letter, addressed to Julie Cascon, the director general of marine safety and security for Transport Canada, asks for a review of enclosed deck regulations to take place before community transmission of the new variant is widespread.

“We believe the increased risk of COVID-19 infection from highly contagious virus variants, like B.1.1.7, may outweigh the risks of passengers remaining in their vehicles on enclosed decks in many circumstances,” Johnston wrote.

READ MORE: Feds offer ‘life preserver’ funds to BC Ferries as pandemic sinks revenue

In its response, Transport Canada said that it was too dangerous to allow passengers to remain on enclosed decks.

“On enclosed vehicle decks, fuelled vehicles, bulk and dangerous goods are often parked tightly together. If an emergency were to happen – say a fire, flooding or collision – evacuating everyone safely would be extremely difficult. In fact, the loss of life could be catastrophic,” a spokesperson said.

“No country in the world allows people to remain in their vehicles on enclosed vehicle decks.”

Transport Canada said that the wearing of masks and physical distancing were enough to keep passengers safe amid the pandemic. Non-essential travel is currently strongly discouraged in B.C.

READ MORE: Human rights complaint filed over private change rooms for female BC Ferries engineers


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

bc ferryBCFerriesCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The 5th Street Bridge requires structural improvements, new coating to repair and prevent corrosion, and deck repairs. File photo
City of Courtenay awards contract for 5th Street Bridge project

The City of Courtenay has awarded the contract for the rehabilitation of… Continue reading

Pumpjacks pump crude oil near Halkirk, Alta., June 20, 2007.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal
Gas prices jump in the Valley – and experts predict prices to rise even more

“We still could be talking about record prices…”

NIC Practical Nursing instructor Barb McPherson (right) is pictured with student Rebecca Wood in 2018 in NIC’s SIM lab. NIC photo
Learn about Practical Nursing opportunities for Island students

Students interested in exploring a future in health care are invited to… Continue reading

The Comox Valley Cycling Coalition is hoping to see more bike lines in the Cumberland area. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Cycling coalition wants better bike links for Cumberland

Group says members want more connections with Comox Valley

The Courtenay Legion has identified 16 homeless veterans living in the Comox Valley. File photo
Courtenay Legion unites with Qualicum to help homeless veterans

Last year’s Point-in-Time (PIT) homeless count conducted in the Comox Valley identified… Continue reading

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

Activists from the Fairy Creek Blockades hold the injunction application notice which was submitted by logging company Teal Jones to the B.C. Supreme Court. The application, which asks to have blockaders removed from the sites that stop access to cut blocks, is set to be heard on March 4. (Photo contributed/Joshua Wright)
Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew from logging

Forest company Teal Cedar applies for injunction to remove seven-month-old blockades

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Most Read