B.C. companies with business in China restrict travel

LNG Canada, Ballard among companies restricting travel for employees

An interactive map developed by Johns Hopkins University gives up-to-date information on the spread of the new coronavirus. | Johns

B.C. businesses with partners and affiliates in China confirm they have been taking steps to limit travel to and from China by their employees, due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports 6,065 confirmed cases of a new coronavirus – 2019-nCoV – 5,997 of which are in China. To date, 132 people have died, according to the WHO.

The epicenter of the virus is the city of Wuhan, in Hubei province, which has been quarantined. But there are also hotspots in other parts of China including Shandong province, where Weichai Group is headquartered in the of city of Weifang.

Both Ballard Power Systems (TSX:BLDP) and Westport Fuel Systems Inc. (TSX:WPRT) have business partnerships with Weichai, a heavy duty engine maker.

“There are quite a few companies in the automotive business that are based in Wuhan, so it’s understandable that they’re going to be impacted from a travel perspective,” said Stewart Beck, president of the Asia Pacific Foundation.

Ballard Power has 25 to 50 employees who travel to and from China. The company has implemented restrictions on non-essential travel.

“Unless somebody has a very strong reason for needing to be in China, we’re restricting travel and asking employees to utilize more creative ways of communicating…which means more conference calls, more video calls, more using technology to bridge the gap,” said Ballard spokesman Guy McAree.

Westport Fuel confirms that it has also limited travel to and from China.

LNG Canada also does business in China, where the LNG modules will be built largely in Chinese fabrication yards. One of the partners in the LNG Canada consortium is PetroChina.

“The fabrication yards in China that are supporting the project are outside of the heavily-impacted zones and because of the Chinese New Year holiday, they have been closed since January 24 and will remain closed until February 3,” LNG Canada spokesperson Susannah Pierce said in an email.

“With escalation of the outbreak, its possible they could remain closed for longer. At this point in time, we have decided not to remobilize our China-based expatriate employees and contractors back to China until such time that the coronavirus threat is controlled.  

“Business-related travel to China is currently restricted. We are in direct contact with all our China-based employees and contractors to assess their personal circumstances and are working to support them.”

To date, only one case of the coronavirus infection has been confirmed in B.C.