In response to a letter from a News OnTheWight reader Ron Fullman, the MCA say the ferry companies have not been instructed by them to force passengers to leave their vehicles. They explain the ferry companies made the decision based on their own individual risk-assessments.
Companies do not need to seek permission
The regulations dictating that passengers must vacate their vehicles during crossings was relaxed for Wightlink and Red Funnel in light of the Coronavirus crisis in March.
The MCA say the ferry companies would not need to ask their permission to change the practice, because they are simply returning to the regulatory requirement.
Wightlink: “The balance of risk has shifted significantly”
In response to a letter from Mr Fullman to Wightlink, the ferry company replied
“Since our initial risk assessment was carried out there have been a number of major changes that necessitated a revised assessment being completed.
i. Reducing infection levels.
ii. The move to 1m + social distancing.
iii. The compulsory wearing of face coverings on all public transport.
iv. The significant increase in passenger volumes being carried and therefore on the car deck.
“Taking all of the above into account we concluded that the balance of risk has shifted significantly and therefore all passengers should vacate their vehicles.”
Social distancing comes under PHE
The MCA also add that although they are the regulator for the Isle of Wight passengers ferries (such as the passenger certification), this does not cover the social distancing policies, which are looked after by Public Health England (PHE).
Passengers with certain medical conditions or those travelling to and from hospital treatment can remain in the car if they inform Wightlink 48 hours ahead of travelling. See their FAQs (scroll to the bottom of the page) for more details.