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Commercial vessels, ferries to reduce passenger numbers to avoid coronavirus spread

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The federal government is bringing in further measures to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 on commercial passenger vessels and ferries.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced that starting Monday all commercial marine vessels with the capacity of 12 or more passengers will stop non-essential activities, such as tourism or recreation.

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Ferries and essential passenger vessel operators are to immediately reduce the maximum number of passengers carried on board by half in an effort to comply with physical distancing rules.

Transport Canada says operators will also implement alternative practices to reduce the spread of the virus, such as keeping people in their vehicles.

It says the measures will be in place until at least June 30.

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In an effort to protect the North, the department is preventing any Canadian cruise ship from mooring, navigating or transitioning in Canadian Arctic waters and any foreign passenger vessels would have to give 60-days’ notice just to enter the waters.

“These new measures will help reduce the spread of COVID-19, while continuing to support the continued movement of goods through the supply chain, and ensuring Canadians can access their homes, jobs, and essential services in a safe manner,” Garneau said in a news release.

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Last month, the federal government deferred the start of the cruise ship season to July 1, 2020.

The new measures will apply to all Canadian coastal and inland waters, including the St. Lawrence River, the Great Lakes, and Canada’s Arctic waters.

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Those caught breaking the rules could face penalties of up to $5,000 a day for an individual and $25,000 a day for a vessel or corporation as well as criminal sanctions, fines and jail time.

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B.C. Ferries, which transports passengers and vehicles to islands off British Columbia and up the coast, drastically chopped its service starting Saturday after it said ridership was down by 80 per cent.

The company said it would be cutting its sailings in half.

Bay Ferries Ltd., which sails between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, had already made a series of changes to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including passenger screening to assess the health and travel history of those getting on the ferry.

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