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Manitoulin ferry opens to transport-only traffic on June 1

Commercial traffic, area residents approved for service
The MS Chi-Cheemaun will open to service for essential transportation only on June 1. (Supplied photo)

The Chi-Cheemaun ferry will open for essential transportation only on June 1.

In a May 7 news release, the Owen Sound Transportation Company (OSTC) said it would offer the service under the guidelines of the Interim Order Respecting Passenger Vessel Restrictions due to Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), a Transport Canada directive.

“This early service is in support of the many commercial carriers who normally use the ferry to transit between regions of Northern and southwestern Ontario, and customers where the ferry is the most practical means of accessing their owned residences,” the OSTC said in the release.

Commercial travellers include examples such as hydro or telecommunications workers, or trucks carrying goods, livestock or other commodities.

Under these terms, the ferry will not be open to travellers for tourism or leisure purposes.

“In addition, all passengers will be required to bring and wear face coverings for the duration of the crossing and must maintain a physical distance of two metres between themselves and other passengers and crew while on board,” the OSTC said.

The OSTC said it would operate in accordance with other requirements under the order, including screening passengers for symptoms of COVID-19 and adjusting passenger capacity to adhere to physical distancing measures.

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A seasonal ferry that sails Lake Huron between South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island and Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula, the Chi-Cheemaun usually launches in early May and runs until mid-October.

It’s a popular method of transport for visitors to Manitoulin Island, where tourism is the primary industry.

The ferry itself hosts a number of leisure activities, including sunset dinner cruises.

In late March, the OSTC announced that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ferry service would be suspended “until further notice.”

Under the Transport Canada order, the operation of passenger vessels carrying more than 12 passengers was suspended until June 30.