Mounties boarding some BC Ferries this weekend to make sure passengers leave their vehicles

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RCMP officers will be travelling on some BC Ferries vessels beginning this weekend to enforce federal rules that forbid passengers from staying in their vehicles on enclosed decks.

Mounties say the ferry corporation and Transport Canada have asked police to help make sure all passengers are in designated passenger areas while vessels are in motion, as required by Canadian law.

Officers will conduct "ferry walkabouts" on some sailings beginning on Friday and say that their role will largely be to help educate travellers, according to an RCMP news release.

"We are confident that education and awareness will help boost compliance rates on BC Ferries around marine safety measures," RCMP Chief Supt. Dave Attfield said in a statement.

Officers aren't there to enforce BC Ferries' mandatory mask rules, Cpl. Chris Manseau told CBC, but they can assist ferry staff if any issues arise.

Transport Canada rules require everyone parked on an enclosed vehicle deck to leave their car for a passenger deck during ferry travel. Those parked on open and partially enclosed vehicle decks can stay in their cars.

The rules were relaxed during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic so that travellers could avoid contact with others. But the federal government has said officials now understand enough about the coronavirus to prevent transmission on board ferries.

"Remaining in a vehicle on an enclosed vehicle deck while a ferry is operating is not safe for passengers and has been banned internationally," the RCMP statement says.

Transport Canada officials have the power to issue administrative fines to anyone not following the rules.