Clipper Vacations has cancelled its passenger ferry service between Victoria and Seattle until April 30.
The company, which had been considering what to do in the face of dwindling passenger counts amid the COVID-19 outbreak, opted Tuesday to stop all sailings for the next month and a half.
“Our No. 1 priority and concern as a business is the health and safety of our employees, staff, crew, passengers and the greater public,” said Clipper chief executive David Gudgel.
“We want to do our part in helping curb the public spread of coronavirus and feel it is imperative to halt immediate vessel operations.
“We will assess our return to service based on both U.S. and Canadian government and health official regulations and guidance.”
The decision means unionized employees of the company will be laid off.
The decision affects about 30 people in Victoria. The company said employees will be recalled in accordance with the provision of their collective bargaining agreement once Clipper’s ferry operations between Seattle and Victoria resume.
“This is an unprecedented event for Clipper, our region of operations and the world at large,” Gudgel said.
“The loyalty and commitment of our Victoria employees is incredible and our hope and full intention is to bring every one of these employees back to work and restart vessel operations as quickly as possible.”
On Monday, Gudgel said all options were on the table after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signalled Canada would be stepping up its response to the outbreak by closing its borders to most foreign nationals except Americans.
Gudgel said passenger numbers have been diminishing over the least few weeks, though the company had intended to continue being a part of what the province deemed an essential service to the Island.