The ferry MV Coho sits at the dock on Saturday in Port Angeles, waiting to resume daily trips to Victoria once the U.S.-Canada border reopens to non-essential traffic. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

The ferry MV Coho sits at the dock on Saturday in Port Angeles, waiting to resume daily trips to Victoria once the U.S.-Canada border reopens to non-essential traffic. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Good news about border reopening could come next week

Coho ready to ply the Strait again

PORT ANGELES — We don’t have good news yet about the M.V. Coho ferry, but it may be coming soon.

In a Thursday phone call with leaders of Canada’s provinces, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada could start allowing fully vaccinated Americans into Canada as of mid-August for non-essential travel and should be in a position to welcome fully vaccinated travelers from all countries by early September, according to The Associated Press.

The operative word is “could.”

Nothing definitive about reopening the border has been announced, according to Ryan Malane, co-owner of the Black Ball Ferry Line, which operates the Coho ferry between Port Angeles and Victoria.

“We have no formal agreement on the border reopening right now,” Malane said Friday.

“We anxiously await news of when that could occur.”

Ryan Burles, the company’s president and chief operating officer, told the Victoria Times-Colonist that he hoped the ferry would be operating by the end of August.

The Coho provided multiple trips daily across the Strait of Juan de Fuca between Port Angeles and Victoria before the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been idled, berthed in Port Angeles, since March 29, 2020, by Canadian restrictions on travel.

“We are expecting a roadmap that should be released next week, and then we can make operating plans from there,” Malane said.

“We hope to see the completely bilateral opening of the border,” unrestricted on both sides, he said.

“This is something we have no control over,” Malane added.

“It’s up to the governments of Canada and the U.S. to decide when the borders will reopen.”

Once Black Ball gets the go-ahead, it will take about two weeks to activate a full crew for the Coho, he said.

The employee-owned company has maintained a skeleton crew and continued to fund health care for the crew.

As for the ferry: “We’ve taken very good care of the ship over this last year and five months,” Malane said.

“This ship is in absolutely impeccable condition and is ready to operate.”

If the border reopens soon, the Coho will have lost two seasons of operation.

“That’s devastating financially,” Malane said.

“Thankfully, we had a rainy day fund, but no one expects it to rain for a year and a half.”

Trudeau said if Canada’s current vaccination rate and public health conditions continue, the border can open.

He said his ministers would share more details on the border early next week.

Canadian officials have said they would like 75 percent of eligible Canadian residents to be fully vaccinated before loosening border restrictions for tourists and business travelers.

The Canadian government expects to have enough vaccine delivered for 80 percent of eligible Canadians to be fully vaccinated by the end of July. The U.S. only allowed for exports of vaccines into Canada in early May.

Canada began easing its restrictions earlier this month, allowing fully vaccinated Canadians or permanent legal residents to return to Canada without quarantining. But among the requirements are a negative test for the virus before returning and another once they get back.

Pressure has been mounting on Canada to continue to ease the restrictions, which have been in effect since March 2020, at the more than 5,500-mile border.

Providing exemptions for travel into Canada amid the pandemic is politically sensitive; Trudeau is expected to call a federal election next month.

Commercial traffic has gone back and forth normally between the two countries since the start of the pandemic. Canadians are able to fly into the United States with a negative COVID-19 test.

The U.S. Travel Association estimates that each month the border is closed costs $1.5 billion. Canadian officials say Canada had about 22 million foreign visitors in 2019 — about 15 million from the United States.

Malane noted that Canada has revised its timeline for allowing cruise ships to Nov. 1 from the original date of February 2022.

“That does bode well for reopening of the border sometime in the near future,” he said.

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