Clipper Vacations, which operates a ferry between Seattle and Victoria, has implemented numerous safety protocols to limit the spread of COVID-19.
The ferry company has been “consumed” by protocol discussions for weeks, said CEO David Gudgel on March 13.
He explained that the team saw things changing as the virus began to spread and, at the end of February, began rolling out extra cleaning protocols aligned with guidelines supported by the World Health Organizations, the Centre For Disease Control and the International Maritime Organization. Education initiatives were also introduced for staff and passengers and crews received training to prepare them to deal with a suspected case of COVID-19 while on board, he said.
Gudgel pointed out that while some felt the efforts were “over the top” at first, shortly after the protocols were debuted, two coronavirus-related deaths were announced in Washington.
“Overkill” became a basis for safety, he said.
The company has also been screening passengers with in-depth questions about their potential exposure to COVID-19 for weeks, Gudgel said. Questionnaires are sent out to passengers in advance and they’re required to fill them out and sign off before being allowed to board, he explained. Passengers whose answers indicate a public safety risk are turned away.
Gudgel added that sailings have been limited to five days a week – not on Tuesdays and Wednesdays – and the response team is meeting daily to discuss new information and update protocols.
“Changes are happening by the minute,” he said.
On March 13, following advice from health officials to cancel large gatherings, the company chose to implement a passenger limit of 250 and alter their vessels to permit social distancing, Gudgel explained.
He added that emails were also sent out to passengers on March 12 following the announcement about self-quarantining for two weeks after leaving the country. On Friday morning there was a drop in passengers but none faced a cancellation fee.
On Friday, Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced that no cruise ships carrying more than 500 people will be allowed to dock in Canada until at least July 1, and in a statement on the same day, Langford Mayor Stew Young advocated for stopping sailings between the Island and Washington state.
“We’re taking every precaution to protect our crews and passengers,” Gudgel said. He invites Young to reach out to discuss the safety measures Clipper Vacations has implemented.