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Travel safe this fall

We all need to work together to be flexible and open to travelling differently while we explore British Columbia safely and responsibly.


Travelling with us soon? What you need to know

  • Masks are mandatory on board and at our terminals. This is for your safety, as well as the health and safety of other passengers and our crew.
     
  • Book in advance. This guarantees you get on the sailing of your choice. We recently launched a new, mobile-friendly website that lets customers plan, book and manage their bookings online. Customers without a booking may experience sailing waits during peak travel times. If your schedule is flexible, travel at less busy times.
     
  • Arrive at the terminal at least an hour before your sailing. Transport Canada COVID-19 screening is in effect.
     
  • If you’re travelling as a foot passenger, we recommend you arrive early. As we have moved into fall, check the weather forecast and bring an umbrella if necessary as crowding is not permitted in foot passenger areas. Some sailings may reach passenger capacity, meaning foot passengers may also experience a sailing wait, and we want you to be comfortable.
     
  • Spread out on the ferry and enjoy the amenities. We have opened up additional space on board for customers to spread out and maintain physical distancing.
     
  • "Grab and go" and limited hot food services are available on select routes between Vancouver Island, Metro Vancouver, Southern Gulf Islands, Sunshine Coast and North Coast. Grab a bite and take it back to your vehicle on the upper deck, to one of the passenger areas or the outer decks.
     
  • Passengers travelling on enclosed vehicle decks are required to leave their vehicles during the sailing to comply with Transport Canada’s regulation. At this time of year, the enclosed decks remain cool and there are pet areas on the upper decks for passengers with pets, as well as plenty of space on board.
     
  • For the most up-to-date travel information, follow @BCFerries on Twitter.

We encourage our customers to continue to heed Dr. Bonnie Henry's advice to be kind, be calm, and be safe. Staff at terminals and on board are working hard to adjust to changing circumstances and to implement protocols and procedures that keep everyone safe and healthy. BC Ferries does not tolerate any abuse, including verbal abuse, towards its employees. A customer who abuses an employee will be denied service.

Masks are mandatory

All passengers must wear non-medical masks or face coverings when at terminals and on board ferries except:
  • When inside a vehicle
  • When consuming food or drinks, provided physical distancing is maintained
  • Children under two years of age
  • Medical condition or disability that inhibits the ability to wear a mask*
  • Persons unable to place or remove a mask without assistance
  • BC Ferries employees working behind a physical barrier or within employee only areas provided physical distancing is maintained.
* In the event that a passenger cannot wear a mask or face covering due to medical reasons, BC Ferries may require passengers to present documentation from a healthcare professional. This is a new Transport Canada requirement for ferry operators across Canada.

Passengers are reminded to continue to maintain physical distance while wearing a mask.

As defined by the Public Health Agency of Canada, a mask should fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops, be made of at least two layers of tightly woven material fabric (such as cotton or linen) and be large enough to completely and comfortably cover the nose and mouth without gaping.

Transport Canada enclosed vehicle deck safety regulation

Effective September 30th, 2020, passengers on enclosed lower vehicle decks will be required to leave their vehicles. The temporary flexibility Transport Canada granted ferry operators that allows passengers to remain in their vehicle on enclosed vehicle decks has been rescinded now that effective safety and cleaning measures are in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. BC Ferries must comply with this Transport Canada regulation as enclosed car decks are spaces that represent inherent risk.

If customers are non-compliant, Transport Canada enforcement may include a travel ban and/or a monetary fine. 

Learn more about the reinstatement of the Transport Canada regulation


COVID-19 screening

For any route longer than 30 minutes, we will be screening all customers, including coach and bus passengers, for COVID-19 symptoms and we will restrict travel to any customer that does not meet the screening requirements, as per the federal guidelines. Prior to boarding a BC Ferries vessel, customers need to answer the following questions:
  1. Do you have a fever and a cough?
  2. Do you have a fever and breathing difficulty?
  3. Have you been refused boarding in the past 14 days due to a medical reason related to COVID-19?
  4. Are you the subject of a provincial/territorial or local public health order?
If you answer 'yes' to any of these questions or fail to answer, you will be refused travel for 14 days.

Customers not displaying symptoms and under a directive to self-isolate at home may be permitted on board but should maintain physical distance by remaining in their vehicle.

Coach and bus operators are required to screen passengers prior to allowing them to board. Passengers are encouraged to remain on the bus for the duration of the trip.

Learn more

Visit Transport Canada's website for more information

Back to school traffic

We are reminding customers that students across BC have returned to school. In order to ensure adequate space for physical distancing onboard, we are requesting that all passengers travelling by vehicle remain in their cars for the duration of the morning school run from Monday – Friday.

There will be increased ridership on the following routes as students commute to school via the ferry:
  • Bowen Island – Horseshoe Bay
    • 7:30 am from Snug Cove (Bowen Island)
       
  • Nanaimo Harbour – Gabriola Island
    • 7:35 am from Gabriola Island
       
  • Chemainus – Thetis – Penelakut
    • 7:45 am Mon – Thurs & 7:25 am Fri from Penelakut
    • 8:05 am Mon – Thurs & 7:45 am Fri from Thetis

Your BC Ferries Journey

We've put together some resources that identify the new measures and procedures that are in place at our terminals and on board our ferries to keep our crew and customers safe and moving.

View your journey


BC Ferries Vacations™ customers

For customers looking to get away safely this fall, BC Ferries Vacations is offering a free room upgrade at over 40 hotels when you book a 2-night package including return ferry travel. Choose from destinations like Victoria, Ucluelet, Vancouver or the Southern Gulf Islands. To book or find out more about BC Ferries Vacations packages, visit bcferries.com/vacations or drop by the BC Ferries Vacations Centre in downtown Vancouver at 1010 Canada Place.

Vacations Call Centre business hours are:
  • Monday – Friday: 8:30am – 5:00pm
  • Weekends and statutory holidays: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Important note for travellers: For the health and safety of guests, hotel amenities may be limited or unavailable during your stay. Please contact a travel agent to find out more.

For general visitor information, visit Destination BC.

Travel to Bella Coola: BC residents only

Bella Coola Valley Tourism advises that only B.C. resident travellers will be permitted to enter the region. Non-residents of B.C. will be denied entry.

Learn more about Bella Coola’s COVID-19 protocols

Additional information

  • Use of BC Ferries Assured Loading Card temporarily limited. Reservations strongly recommended instead. Learn more.

  • Customers requiring wheelchair assistance: We are unable to provide wheelchair assistance at terminals or on board ferries. If you require a wheelchair, request one at the terminal. We ask that you travel with your own wheelchair assistant if required.

  • Updates from our President and CEO Mark Collins


We're in this together

We are proud of the work our dedicated and courageous employees continue to provide during this situation. Our front line teams are committed to continuing to safely transport critical supplies to BC's coastal communities. If you have a chance to relay a 'thank-you' to our teams online or during your travels, please do.


Information and resources

Recently returned to Canada? Follow the direction of the BC Centre of Disease Control:
Those returning from travel outside of Canada should stay at home and self-isolate for 14 days after they have returned. Monitor yourself daily for symptoms like fever, cough or difficulty breathing for these 14 days. If you develop symptoms, call HealthLinkBC (8-1-1) at any time or speak with your health care provider to discuss any need for testing and follow up.

BC Centre for Disease Control Information Page
Answers to many common questions surrounding COVID-19.

The Public Health Agency of Canada - Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Information and updates including travel advice, prevention, risk, response.

Healthlink BC COVID-19 - Latest Updates
News, prevention tips and information on self-monitoring/self-isolation. The 8-1-1 number allows anyone with COVID-19 concerns to speak to a health service navigator at any time.

Province of British Columbia Pandemic Preparedness Plan
COVID-19 preparedness and planning material.

Office of the BC Provincial Health Officer – COVID-19 Updates
To support BC's health care providers, an evidence-based source of information about COVID-19 in BC.

Think you might have symptoms?
Do a self-assessment with this online tool provided by Health Canada.

Mental Health and Coping during COVID-19
Information from Health Canada on what you can do to support yourself and your family.

HelloBC – Destination BC Traveller and Tourist Information
Do your part now, so we can all explore BC again later. 

BC Business COVID-19 Support Service
Connecting businesses with the resources and guidance necessary to navigate the challenges from COVID-19.

Frequently asked questions

Reinstatement of the Transport Canada regulation

Reimplementation of procedures for Transport Canada regulation re: Passenger access to closed car decks. Your questions, answered.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, Transport Canada is rescinding the temporary flexibility it granted to ferry operators allowing passengers to remain in their vehicle on closed vehicle decks. Transport Canada granted this flexibility in the spring in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q. Which ferries does BC Ferries’ reimplementation of procedures for Transport Canada’s regulation apply to?
As of Sept. 30, BC Ferries will reimplement its procedures for Transport Canada’s regulation on the following ferries:

  • Spirit of British Columbia
  • Spirit of Vancouver Island
  • Coastal Renaissance
  • Coastal Inspiration
  • Coastal Celebration
  • Queen of Alberni
  • Queen of Coquitlam (while operating on Horseshoe Bay – Departure Bay route)
  • Queen of Cowichan (while operating on the Horseshoe Bay – Departure Bay route)
  • Queen of New Westminster
  • Queen of Oak Bay (if operating on Horseshoe Bay – Departure Bay route)
  • Salish Orca
  • Salish Eagle
  • Salish Raven
  • Northern Expedition
  • Northern Adventure
  • Northern Sea Wolf (Not currently in operation)
Q. Which routes does BC Ferries’ reimplementation of procedures for Transport Canada’s regulation apply to?
As of Sept. 30, BC Ferries will reimplement its procedures for Transport Canada’s regulation on the following routes:
  • Vancouver (Tsawwassen) – Victoria (Swartz Bay)
  • Vancouver (Tsawwassen) – Nanaimo (Duke Point)
  • Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay) – Nanaimo (Departure Bay)
  • Powell River (Westview)  – Comox (Little River)
  • Vancouver (Tsawwassen) – Southern Gulf Islands
Q. We’re being told we need to practice physical distancing and you’re forcing us to come upstairs. Why?
BC Ferries must comply with Transport Canada regulations. The company supports the regulation and its intent. Closed car decks are spaces that represent inherent risk to the travelling public. During the pandemic these risks were mitigated with additional safety procedures and patrols. Transport Canada has now advised us that measures have been developed and implemented to prevent the spread of the disease in all transportation modes and businesses across Canada. They have further advised the marine safety case for ending the practice of permitting people to remain in their vehicles on a closed car deck is clear.

BC Ferries has implemented the measures to which Transport Canada refers above. This includes additional cleaning, sanitization, physical distancing and mandatory wearing of face coverings while at the terminal and onboard the ferry. The company will also reopen certain areas of the ferries, such as the Pacific Buffet area on the Spirit Class ferries, for seating only, as a way to provide passengers more space for physical distancing. Buffet food service is not being reintroduced at this time.

If you have concerns about the regulation, contact Transport Canada directly. The regulation can be found in Section 152 of the Cargo, Tackle and Fumigation Regulations under the Canada Shipping Act. For more information, visit tc.gc.ca.

Q. Have you reduced your average passenger capacity because more customers are coming upstairs?
​When COVID-19 began, BC Ferries operated at 50 per cent passenger capacity as per Transport Canada requirements. After implementing additional safety measures, such as mandatory face coverings, the company shifted towards an average of 70 per cent passenger capacity on board the ships. 

This calculation included sufficient buffer to allow for additional passengers. BC Ferries will be opening up additional spaces on the ships for passengers to sit, such as the Pacific Buffet area on the Spirit Class ferries, to further support physical distancing. Buffet food service will not be reintroduced at this time. There will also be additional crew on board for extra cleaning.

Q. Why are you not reimplementing procedures on the ships on the Horseshoe Bay – Langdale route?
BC Ferries received approval from Transport Canada for customers on the Horseshoe Bay – Langdale to remain in their vehicle on the main (lower) vehicle deck while underway on the Queen of Surrey, Queen of Cowichan, Queen of Coquitlam or Queen of Oak Bay, if operating on the route.

The ferries on the Horseshoe Bay – Langdale route operate in ‘sheltered’ waters as defined by Transport Canada. BC Ferries received approval from Transport Canada to operate the ferries on that route with the stern doors open, which makes the deck an ‘open’ vehicle deck. The company added a new steel barrier gate across the opening to ensure safety and meet the requirements of an ‘open’ main car deck. There may be situations where the ships operate with the stern doors closed, in which case customers on the main car deck will be required to leave their vehicle.

Q. Why is the upper (open) vehicle deck not cleared of all passengers, surely the same reasons for the lower (closed) deck to be cleared can be used on the upper deck?
The regulation is in place to support passenger safety in the event of an accident and only applies to closed vehicle decks. This is due to a variety of factors, such as passengers being further away from an evacuation area in the rare event of an emergency. The upper vehicle deck is not a part of the regulation, primarily due to being open to the external environment.

Q. Are any vehicles exempt and why?
Broadly speaking, the vehicles that do not have to comply are vehicles that due to the nature of operation require their operators to be present, including but not limited to: ambulances, other emergency vehicles and livestock carriers.

Q. I want to request/book/reserve to be on the upper vehicle deck?
Customers can request to be on the upper vehicle deck by letting the Ticket Agent know when they check-in. BC Ferries will try and accommodate your request where possible. However, this is not always possible and may result in a customer needing to wait for the next sailing. The final decision to load a vehicle on the upper or lower car deck rests with the Loading Officer who is responsible for the safe stowage of all vehicles/cargo. Passengers with reservations are more likely to be loaded on the upper car deck.

Q. What are you going to do if I refuse to get out of my vehicle?
BC Ferries’ employees will inform you of the Transport Canada regulation and your responsibility to comply. We remind customers legally they must follow the federal regulation and we expect our customers to comply. Enforcement action in the event of non-compliance is Transport Canada’s responsibility.
More FAQs

More frequently asked questions

Q. What is the general policy for face coverings?
A. It is mandatory for all passengers to wear face coverings at all times when at a BC Ferries terminal or on one of our ferries.

Any non-medical mask or face covering such as a bandana, scarf, or cloth can be used. The enforcement of this policy will be through education and awareness, and front line employees may remind customers of this policy. You will be advised of this policy when purchasing a ticket, and BC Ferries reserves the right to deny travel for non-compliance with this policy or other conditions of carriage.

Q. Can I wear a face shield?
A. Yes, if a customer is unable to wear a face covering, a face shield is acceptable.

Q. What is BC Ferries doing to reduce the risk of spreading infectious disease including COVID-19?
A. We continue to take steps to protect the health and safety of our customers and employees including:
  • wearing a mask at all times at terminals and onboard ferries
  • prompts and reminders regarding physical distancing
  • screening all passengers who travel with us
  • frequent cleaning of high-touch areas

Q. Is BC Ferries screening passengers for COVID-19?
A. Yes. For any route longer than 30 minutes, Transport Canada has issued health screening guidelines to ferry operators to assess all passengers before boarding to better protect employees and passengers. These guidelines from Transport Canada are based on advice from the Public Health Agency of Canada. Visit this Transport Canada webpage for more information.

Q. I know someone who is experiencing COVID-like symptoms or is positive for COVID-19, and they travelled with BC Ferries. What should I do?
If you have a concern about someone who is experiencing COVID-like symptoms or is positive for COVID-19 that may have been at one of our terminals or on board our ferries, contact the appropriate local health authority immediately. The local health authority assesses every COVID-19 case for potential exposures and risk to general public based on the person’s infectious period. If they determine there may be a broader public exposure risk, they will notify us and issue a public notification.

Q. What advice does BC Ferries have for passengers?
A. For those who choose to travel, BC Ferries urges responsible behaviour while on board, including wearing a mask, and maintaining physical distance from other passengers while seated and moving around the ferry.

We encourage our customers to continue to heed Dr. Bonnie Henry's advice to be kind, be calm, and be safe. Staff at terminals and on board are working hard to adjust to changing circumstances and to implement protocols and procedures that keep everyone safe and healthy. BC Ferries does not tolerate any abuse, including verbal abuse, towards its employees. A customer who abuses an employee will be denied service.

Q. Is it possible to stay in my vehicle on a lower closed car deck?
A. Effective September 30, 2020, passengers will no longer be able to remain in their vehicles on lower closed vehicle decks. Transport Canada is rescinding the flexibility on the regulation now that measures are in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This does not apply to vehicles on upper open decks. 

Q. Who qualifies as an essential service worker?
A. The Province of British Columbia describes essential services as those daily services essential to preserving life, health, public safety and basic societal functioning. For more information, see the full list of essential services.

Q. B.C. health officials have announced a ban on gatherings of over 50 people, does this apply to ferries?
A. No. This ban applies to events and does not apply to transportation services.