British Columbia

BC Ferries to ban smoking, staying in cars on closed decks

BC Ferries says the ban on smoking and staying in cars are to comply with provincial and Transport Canada regulations.

No more staying in below-deck cars by October; smoking a thing of the past by January

BC Ferries says they will no longer allow passengers to remain in their vehicles on closed decks during sailings as of October to comply with Transport Canada rules. (Susan Maclean)

BC Ferries will ban smoking on all ships and at all of its terminals by January 2018.

They will also forbid passengers from remaining in cars on closed decks during sailings starting in October.

In a release, BC Ferries says the smoking ban came from provincial regulations that increased no-smoking buffer zones from three metres to six metres around any "doorway, intake or open window" to a public space or workplace.

They say buffer zones of that size are impossible to maintain on vessels and decided to extend the no-smoking policy to terminals as well.

"This new policy supports the health and wellness of our customers and employees, as it helps control their exposure to secondhand smoke," said BC Ferries President and CEO Mark Collins in a statement.

"We continue to focus on improving our customers' experience, and providing the safest working environment for our crews."

BC Ferries originally announced the changes in December 2016, but put them on hold a month later. 

Staying on most car decks to be banned

In a separate release, BC Ferries says the ban on staying in cars on closed decks — "a space that is closed at both ends with limited side openings" — was to comply with Transport Canada regulations.

Director of fleet operations Darren Johnston says BC Ferries complied with those 2007 regulations by patrolling lower decks but Transport Canada since changed their "application" of the rules.

"It's Transport Canada's assessment that the level of risk, which had been tolerable in the past is not quite as tolerable as it once was," he said.

He says the patrols will continue and staff levels will be unchanged after the ban goes into effect.

Exceptions possible

BC Ferries stresses that people can remain in vehicles on higher car decks or on ships where there is only one deck.

As well, "Customers with special circumstances may make a request at the ticket booth to be placed on the upper vehicle deck. Where this is possible, BC Ferries will try and accommodate your request."

Johnston says those special circumstance could include people with medical conditions who need rest.

He says customers with pets will still be able to leave their animals in their cars or could also take them to the pet area on ships' upper car deck.

The change to regulations on remaining in cars begins Oct. 11. The smoking ban takes effect Jan. 22, 2018.