COVID-19: Guidance Material for Essential Passenger Vessel and Ferry Operators

Overview

The Minister of Transport has issued an Interim Order to help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 on-board passenger vessels. Under this Interim Order, passenger vessels that are certified to carry more than 100 persons (including passengers and crew) AND are equipped with overnight capacity for passengers (bunks, cabins, etc.) are prohibited from operating in Canadian waters until February 28, 2022. Vessels certified to carry more than 12 passengers will be prohibited from entering Canadian Arctic waters (waters north of the 60th parallel, including the territorial sea in the vicinity of Nunatsiavut, Nunavik and the Labrador coast) also until February 28, 2022.

Section 6 of the Interim Order also provides that an operator of an essential passenger vessel or ferry vessel must:

  • Reduce by 50% the maximum number of passengers that are carried on-board (conduct half-load voyages); OR
  • If no reduction in passengers, implement alternative practices to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, consistent with guidance put forward by the local health authority for the region in which the vessel is operating. Please refer to the Ship Safety Bulletin entitled Measures to Mitigate the Spread of COVID-19 on Passenger Vessels and Ferries, SSB No. 08/2021, published on July 05, 2021 for additional information and a list of potential mitigation measures.

Further, for essential passenger vessel and ferry operations, pursuant to section 10.1(1) of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, section 7 of the Interim Order states that the authorized representative and master must make reasonable efforts to implement and put in place the measures included in these guidelines.

Guidelines

Purpose

To provide guidance on notifying passengers, who present themselves to board an essential passenger vessel or ferry, that they may be subject to certain measures consistent with local health guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Secondly, to provide guidance in conducting the health check under guidance put forward by local health authorities in the vessel's area of operation and in detecting and managing passengers with suspected COVID-19. 

Operators of passenger and ferry vessels should, when feasible, and consistent with advice put forward by their local health authority:

  1. Notify passengers before boarding that they may be subject to a health check to prevent the spread of COVID-19;
  2. Notify passengers before boarding that they may be asked to have a face covering to cover their mouth/nose (if recommended by local health advice in the vessel's area of operation) for use at times during their journey when they cannot physically distance from others (e.g., in washrooms or other common areas). If a passenger is required to have a face covering under local health restrictions and does not possess, or chooses not to wear one due to health issues, they should be notified that they will be required to provide a medical certificate certifying that they are unable to wear a face covering for a medical reason;
  3. Have the crew (or crew member) read out the announcement, provided below, prior to or on-board the vessel. Where this is not feasible, the operator should post equivalent signage;
  4. If consistent with advice put forward by local health authorities, conduct health checks for every passenger before boarding on voyages that are longer than 30 minutes, and advise every passenger that they are not to provide answers that they know to be false or misleading.

1. Notification

The notification process should be done through any means (e.g., signage, electronic ticket purchase, dedicated crew members or other staff) at the discretion of the vessel operator. Details within the notification which relate to the health check and wearing of a face covering may be amended to align with current guidance put forward by local health authorities in the vessel's area of operation.

A sample notification is provided below.

SAMPLE NOTIFICATION TO VESSEL PASSENGERS TO BE ADAPTED LOCALLY

In order to manage the spread of COVID-19, the Government of Canada, along with the provinces and territories have put in place recommended practices. 

Prior to boarding this vessel you may be requested to undergo a health check.  This will involve answering a few simple questions which you must answer truthfully.

During the voyage, you may be asked to wear a face covering that covers your mouth and nose when you are outside your vehicle and in situations where you cannot maintain two metres of physical separation. If you do not have or choose not to wear a face covering due to health issues, you must be prepared to provide a medical certificate certifying you are unable to wear a face covering for a medical reason.

When arriving at your destination, you may be subject to further measures taken by the provincial or territorial government to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

As a reminder, no person should board a vessel when they are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. Should symptoms such as a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing develop while on-board, please notify the vessel crew immediately.

2. Announcement to be adapted based on local measures

Crew (or crew member) should read out the following announcement prior to or on-board the vessel. Details within the notification which relate to the wearing of a face covering may be amended to align with current guidance put forward by local health authorities in the vessel's area of operation.

On-board announcement

In light of the global pandemic related to COVID-19, the Government of Canada, in co-operation with provincial/territorial public health authorities, has put in place important measures to help limit the spread of COVID-19 in Canada.

During this voyage, you may be advised to wear a face covering that covers your mouth and nose when you are outside your vehicle and in situations where you cannot maintain two metres of physical separation. If you do not have or choose not to wear a face covering due to health issues, you must be prepared to provide a medical certificate certifying you are unable to wear a face covering for a medical reason.

Please be advised that many provinces and territories are asking travellers, with some exceptions for essential services, to self-isolate and monitor themselves for symptoms to help limit the spread of COVID-19 in Canada.

Travellers are reminded to stay informed about COVID-19 measures that apply in the region where they are heading, and obtain updates from their national, provincial and territorial health authorities.

3. Health Check

The management of ill passengers on essential passenger vessels and ferries in the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic should include the following steps:

  1. Conducting a health check: Vessel operators should, where possible and practical, observe and do a health check of all passengers before they board the vessel. The health check (identified below – Questionnaire for Health Check) has been approved by the Public Health Agency of Canada and is based on guidance material published by the World Health Organization on February 16, 2020. The health check should be administered by an employee asking the passenger the questions. The visual observation for symptoms should be done by an employee to look for signs that the person is unwell. Where it is not practical to perform the health check in person (e.g., a location with no ticket booth) the operator should post a sign in a highly visible location informing the passenger of the screening protocol and asking them to respect it.
  2. Advise vessel passengers to have and to wear a face covering: If required under guidance put forward by local health authorities in the vessel's area of operation, vessel operators should where possible and practical, ensure that passengers are in possession of a face covering that covers their mouth and nose during their journey when they cannot maintain two metres of physical separation from others. Passengers who fail to bring a face covering could be subject to denial of boarding should they fail to comply and do not provide a medical certificate certifying that they are unable to wear a face covering for a medical reason.
  3. Denial of boarding: In the event that the vessel operator observes that:
    1. the passenger has COVID-19 symptoms; or
    2. that their response to any of the questions on the health check indicates a need to deny boarding; or
    3. the passenger is required to wear a face covering (under guidance put forward by the local health authority in the vessel's area of operation) and is not in possession of one and does not have a medical certificate certifying that they are unable to wear a face covering for a medical reason.

      The vessel operator should refuse to board the person for travel for a period of 14 days or until a medical certificate is presented that confirms that the symptoms that the person is exhibiting are not related to the COVID-19 virus (in the case of a. or b.). Refusal of boarding for c. should only occur if such measures are required under advice put forward by the local health authority in the vessel's area of operation.

      If the passenger must travel for the purpose of receiving needed medical services, they should take precautions to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19 such as staying in their car as much as possible, wearing a mask and maintaining a minimum of two metres from any other passenger. 

  4. Provide explanation for future travel: Where possible, vessel operators will explain to passengers who are denied boarding, based on the health check or observation, that they will need to wait 14 days before they are able to board a vessel or that they will need to provide a medical certificate indicating that the symptoms that they are exhibiting are not related to COVID-19.
  5. Advise vessel passengers to follow the guidance put forward by local health authorities related to COVID-19: Vessel operators should advise passengers who have been denied boarding to follow the guidance/direction from their provincial/territorial health authorities for dealing with COVID-19.

Questionnaire for Health Check

Vessel operators should protect themselves by maintaining more than two metres between themselves and passengers at all times, which is also known as social or physical distancing. Staff should be instructed to encourage foot passengers to maintain more than two metres distance between themselves while in line.

If the response (or non-response) to any of the first four questions below results in the answer that is in bold, then a denial of boarding should be applied. Question five should only be asked if face coverings are required under guidance put forward by the local health authority in the vessel's area of operation.

1. Do you have a fever and a cough? If YES or passenger refuses to answer, deny boarding.

2. Do you have a fever and are experiencing difficulty breathing? If YES or passenger refuses to answer, deny boarding.

3. Have you been refused boarding in the past 14 days due to a medical reason related to COVID-19? If YES or passenger refuses to answer, deny boarding.

4. Are you the subject of a provincial/territorial or local public health order? If YES or passenger refuses to answer, deny boarding.

5. Are you in possession of a face covering that covers your mouth and nose, and do you agree to wear this covering in situations where you cannot maintain two metres of physical separation from your fellow passengers? If NO and the passenger is required to wear a face covering under guidance put forward by the local health authority in the vessel's area of operation and does not have a medical certificate certifying that they are unable to wear a face covering for a medical reason, or passenger refuses to answer, deny boarding.

Alternative to the above Health Check Questionnaire

If the vessel operator has no practical means to direct an employee to perform a health check or face covering check, the operator should instead post signage advising passengers of questions they should consider, prior to boarding, to confirm they are not showing signs of COVID-19 and that, if required by the local health authority in the vessel's area of operation, they are in possession of a face covering. In the situation where they answer yes to the self-assessment questions or no to the face covering question (as required) advice should be provided on boarding restrictions.

Poster on COVID-19 – New measures for passengers travelling by ferry or water taxi

Download the poster: Travelling by ferry or water taxi in Canada? COVID-19 restrictions in effect (PDF, 107 KB)

Passengers can meet any requirements for wearing a face covering by following instructions published by the Public Health Agency of Canada on how to wear and, if necessary, make a sew and no-sew cloth face covering:

Link: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/prevention-risks/instructions-sew-no-sew-cloth-face-covering.html