Ferry services take pandemic measures – with some allowing passengers to social distance by staying in their cars
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Ferry services take pandemic measures – with some allowing passengers to social distance by staying in their cars

CAR ferries in some parts of the world are now allowing passengers to remain in their vehicles in order to aid social distancing in the battle against Covid-19.

BC Ferries in British Columbia run several services between the islands off the western coast of Canada, the maximum voyage time being a little over two hours.

But this measure is unlikely to be adopted on longer sea routes between Britain and Ireland.

Stena Line, one of the largest ferry operators in the world, runs six routes between Britain and Ireland.

They have continued to run a normal service during the coronavirus pandemic, but on longer routes have no plans to change their policy of not allowing passengers to remain in their vehicles once a ferry is underway.

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However, on shorter routes — such as the Cairnryan to Belfast or Larne services — some flexibility may be introduced.

Jurgen Loren, Head of Safety at Stena Line told The Irish Post: “We cannot comment on actions by ferry companies in foreign jurisdictions, who are subject to local maritime law and often have much shorter routes.

“However, we will look at any options to help social distancing in the future onboard our vessels.”

He added: “It may be possible to investigate passengers remaining in their vehicles on some of our shorter routes, if we still can guarantee the safety of our customers in an emergency. “However, our routes from the Irish Republic to Wales are between and three and four hours long, so it may not be practical. Most vehicle decks are covered so there are also logistical, comfort and safety issues.”

Jörgen Lorén, Head of Safety at Stena Line

Regarding their current guidelines, Mr Loren confirms that their passengers are not legally allowed to stay in their vehicles while the ferry is in operation.

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“At present we are precluded under maritime law from allowing passengers to remain in their vehicles,” he said.

“Any changes to the rules would need to be enacted by the regulatory authorities for the flag states that each vessel sails under, such as the MCA (Maritime and Coastguard Agency) for the UK.

“Thankfully our ferries are very large with ample seating areas and dining areas where social distancing is possible and is being enforced by our onboard service teams.”

He added: “Numbers of passengers are very low at present, but if the lockdown eases and they possibly start to increase again, we envisage that many, if not all, of the current COVID-19 precautions will remain and the authorities may require further increased measures.

“We will adhere to any regulations that are required to prevent the possible spread of the virus and take any steps necessary to ensure the continued safety of our passengers and crew."