Red Funnel and Wightlink have announced that they have worked with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to identify exceptional solutions to support the government’s social distancing guidance in response to COVID-19 and respond to passengers’ requests to remain in vehicles during crossings.
Whilst safety legislation requires passengers vacate vehicle decks for the duration of the crossing, from Thursday (19th March) Red Funnel will operate a number of special ‘vehicle deck only’ crossings, whereby the main passenger accommodation areas will be closed and passengers must remain in their vehicles.
This ‘all or nothing’ solution requiring all passengers to remain in vehicles is rooted in ensuring that robust safety, fire control and evacuation procedures can be maintained. A number of additional passenger safety and operational controls are also required to allow this exceptional and unprecedented exemption, and instructions will be clearly communicated to passengers prior to boarding.
Until further notice, the following vehicle ferry crossings will be restricted to ‘vehicle deck only’ at this time, with other services operating normally:
- Departing Southampton: 18:00, 21:00
- Departing East Cowes: 19:30, 22:30
Vehicle space will be restricted on these crossings to due to requirements for larger gaps between vehicles as a means of ensuring adequate pathways should there be a need to evacuate. We anticipate being able to extend this exceptional service in coming days and will update our website accordingly.
Fran Collins, CEO, said:
“We’d like to thank the MCA for working with us to identify solutions to allow our passengers this option during this exceptional time.
“Many of our customers have been in touch in recent weeks to request that this option be available and while we empathised with their requests we were legally unable to oblige until now.
“The MCA’s decision to provide a temporary exemption to this aspect of the safety code which applies to our operation is unprecedented and required a great deal of cooperation and lateral thinking from all parties.
“I’m very pleased that we are now able to provide a solution to our customers and thank our customers for their patience as we seek to adapt our operation as quickly and efficiently as we can.”
Similarily, from Thursday 19th March, some of Wightlink’s sailings on the Portsmouth-Fishbourne route will operate on a ‘remain in vehicle’ basis for all drivers and their passengers. No foot passengers will be carried on these services and there will be no access to onboard toilets from the vehicle deck.
St Clare will be used for this purpose with all sailings on the hour operating as in vehicle only. St Clare sails on the even hour from Portsmouth (06:00, 08:00 etc) and the odd hour from Fishbourne (07:00, 09:00 etc). All other services (both Portsmouth-Fishbourne and Lymington-Yarmouth) will operate in the usual way with all customers leaving their vehicles after embarkation and spending the crossing in passenger lounges.
Customers wanting to change their bookings can do free of charge online.
Red Funnel plans to publish further guidance on around vehicle deck only crossings on its website later today. Further questions and answers will be published on the operator’s Covid-19 Travel Questions FAQs page, at www.redfunnel.co.uk/COVID-19.