SEATTLE — The Victoria Clipper fast ferry is shutting down until March 2022. The vessel's parent company Clipper Vacations USA, Inc. said since re-opening on Sept. 17, ridership has not picked up enough to cover costs.
The final boat docked in Seattle Monday night. The company said it needed to refund roughly 500 people who purchased advanced tickets.
"Right now, it's just very difficult," said David Gudgel, CEO of Clipper Vacations USA, Inc.
The boat can fit up to 500 passengers. Gudgel said right now trips are taking between 50 and 60 passengers.
"One of the headwinds was the U.S. border was not open to Canadians at this point, and another big one was the entry requirements into Canada," explained Gudgel.
The requirements are to be fully vaccinated and present a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 72 hours before entering Canada.
"That extra step took away a lot of our day-trippers we would see this time of year," said Gudgel.
It was 24 days ago the vessel took its first trip to Victoria, B.C., after an 18-month shutdown. The return was viewed as a sign of hope and relief both for Clipper Vacations and the tourism industry in Victoria.
Over the next few weeks, the crew will perform maintenance, Gudgel said. After that, the company will return to limited staffing levels of around eight employees.
"If we could cover our operating costs and fuel, our crewing costs and port fees, we wanted to be able to do that to keep the folks that have been with us, some for more than 25 years, but it just wasn't tenable at this point so we had to pull the plug," said Gudgel.
Gudgel said this decision ensures the company will financially be in a position to reopen in March 2022.
The company sent a letter to customers Monday, saying in part, "We regret to inform you that we are cancelling our scheduled Seattle to Victoria fast ferry operations as of Tuesday, October 12th. Unfortunately, we are unable to sustain our business operations during the fall and winter seasons this year due to the ongoing impact of the pandemic. We currently plan to re-instate our Seattle to Victoria fast ferry service and hotel/tour packages in Spring 2022. Our exact restart date and date for accepting bookings will be announced on our website later in November."
Clipper Vacations is offering customers travel credit for future bookings or a full refund.