BC Ferries union calls on feds to allow passengers to remain below deck due to COVID-19
COURTENAY, B.C. -- Another voice is weighing in on whether BC Ferries passengers should be allowed to remain in their vehicles on enclosed decks while sailing.
The president of the BC Ferry and Marine Workers' Union penned a letter to Transport Canada saying the agency needs to rethink its policy in recognition of more transmissible COVID-19 variants.
Graeme Johnston sent the letter on behalf of the union's 4,300 workers and says Transport Canada should consider again relaxing the regulation which prevents people from being in their vehicles on enclosed car decks.
"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" Johnston wrote.
"We believe the increased risk of COVID-19 infections from highly contagious virus variants… may outweigh the risks of passengers remaining in their vehicles on enclosed decks in many circumstances,” he wrote.
Transport Canada previously allowed a temporary exemption to the car-deck restriction in the early part of the pandemic but that ended in September.
BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall says management agrees with the Transport Canada decision.
"In the unlikely event of an emergency – say there was a fire and there was smoke that basically encapsulated the whole lower car deck – that would be extremely difficult for people to get out of their vehicles and," Marshall said.
It appears the union's request may not find sympathetic ears at the government agency.
In a statement to CTV News, Transport Canada said "no country in the world allows people to remain in their vehicles on enclosed vehicle decks, due to the inherent safety risk and potential for catastrophic loss of life.
"Enclosed vehicle decks are specifically designed to contain smoke and fire, in order to protect the other levels of the ship and allow more time for passengers and crew to stay safe and evacuate" the statement read.