Cruise & Ferry Review - Spring/Summer 2021

7 6 COMMENTARY Pandemic response fuels hopes for future Interferry CEO Mike Corrigan suggests that the global trade association and its members can draw some comfort from the evolving reactions to unprecedented challenges MIKE CORRIGAN A Canadian former energy industry executive, Mike Corrigan joined Interferry in 2017 after 14 years in leadership positions with BC Ferries, where he became president and CEO in 2012. A s the battle against Covid-19 continues, a wise old proverb comes to mind: hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Understandably, the world was caught off guard in 2020 by a pandemic of such unpredictable proportions, but the subsequent fightback makes it feasible to hope – albeit cautiously – that the worst will be over as 2021 unfolds. I say this even though the devastating and ongoing impact of the virus on lives and livelihoods cannot be overstated. The ferry industry has shared the economic pain felt in every sector of society. Revenues have plummeted by billions due to swingeing travel restrictions that have reduced passenger traffic by up to 90 per cent – a situation aggravated by the need to maintain lifeline deliveries of essential goods despite unsustainable losses. So why do I suggest that hope is on the horizon? A major factor is the record speed at which various Covid-19 vaccines have been developed and licensed as safe and effective. Following a process that typically takes 10 years, inoculations are being rolled out across the globe, which could encourage a return to some sort of normality in the summer holiday months. The peak tourist period is crucial to the profitability of ferry companies, particularly those that rely on this income to compensate for lower passenger numbers on their freight-biased sailings over the rest of the year. Ironically, another reason for hope stems from last summer’s travel lockdown. This largely narrowed holiday options to “staycations” rather than international bookings, which in turn attracted newcomers to the ferry mode of transport. It’s now apparent that both domestic and international services can eventually build on this wider customer base by promoting the more relaxed nature of short-haul ferry travel compared with long-haul tourism – and the greater protection from viral infection that the space onboard ships affords. Washington State Ferries is one of many Interferry member lines that has thoroughly trained crew members to familiarise them with all the new Covid-related guidelines Interferry has created a guide to showcase the best practices ferry lines can implement to ensure Covid-safe travel Photo: Washington State Ferries