Washington State Ferries - Cancellations

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Cancellations reasons and amounts

Source: Washington State Ferries

Note: Fiscal year - July 1 through June 30.

Performance analysis

FY2024 Q1 (July - September 2023)

In the first quarter of FY2024, WSF canceled 1,069 trips and replaced 49 of them, resulting in 1,020 trips net missed trips. This was 191 more net missed trips compared to the same quarter in FY2023. Of the 1,069 canceled trips, 647 (60.5%) were due to lack of available crew. WSF continues to recruit employees and train new crew members, but additional crew are needed.

Vessel mechanical issues resulted in 126 cancellations during the quarter. There were 41 trips canceled when the M/V Spokane experienced a generator problem. A throttle malfunction and loss of steering on the M/V Kaleetan caused 22 missed trips. The M/V Tokitae required a turbo replacement and had a separate breaker problem that resulted in 18 missed trips. A steering system alarm issue on the M/V Issaquah led to 13 missed trips. The propulsion clutch replacement on the M/V Chelan caused 11 cancellations. The remaining 21 vessel-related cancellations were due to multiple events, with no more than six cancellations during one event.

There were 129 cancellations for schedule resets, which occur when vessels become so delayed that a trip is canceled to reestablish a workable schedule. Tides caused 38 cancellations and there were six missed trips for weather-related events, all on the Port Townsend/Coupeville route. Emergencies accounted for 52 cancellations, with 41 of those due to the M/V Chelan experiencing a soft grounding event in the San Juan Islands. The remaining cancellations were scattered among a variety of causes with no more than six cancellations occurring under a single circumstance.

FY2023 Q4 (April - June 2023)

During the fourth quarter of FY2023, WSF canceled 718 trips and replaced 72 for a total of 646 net missed trips. This was 49 more net missed trips than the same quarter of FY2022.

Of the 718 canceled trips for the quarter, 393 (54.7%) were due to lack of available crew. WSF continues to face significant crewing issues, which have been exacerbated since the pandemic began; crewing capacity is the primary reason for the reduced level of service during the quarter.

Vessel mechanical breakdowns led to 77 trip cancellations during the quarter. A fire pump malfunction on the M/V Cathlamet caused 16 cancellations in April. In May, a loose rudder on the M/V Yakima led to 16 cancellations. A drive motor problem on the M/V Tacoma resulted in eight cancellations. Sewage on the deck of the M/V Kitsap led to seven cancelled trips. The M/V Kitsap had an electrical issue causing 12 cancellations. Various reasons led to the remaining 21 vessel breakdowns, with no more than six trip cancellations for any one event.

Tides and weather accounted for 127 cancellations, 76 and 51 respectively, all of which occurred on the Port Townsend/Coupeville route. The Port Townsend/Coupeville is the route most vulnerable to tidal and weather patterns passing through the Puget Sound region.

There were 68 cancellations due to schedule resets, which occur when a vessel is so far behind schedule that it is necessary to show a missed trip (cancellation) to get the vessel back on schedule. Emergencies accounted for 21 cancellations, with eight cancellations due to the M/V Walla Walla losing power on the way from Bremerton to Colman Dock due to contaminated fuel. Very low tides at the Point Defiance terminal prevented vehicles from loading/unloading as the angle of the bridge was too steep for the transfer span to deploy, which caused 10 cancellations.

The remaining 22 cancellations were due to miscellaneous reasons with no more than six trips cancelled for any one event.

FY2023 Q3 (January - March 2023)

In the third quarter of FY2023, WSF canceled 890 trips and replaced 68 of them, resulting in 822 net missed trips. This was 471 (134%) more than the 351 net missed trips during the same quarter in FY2022. Of the 890 trips cancelled during the quarter, the highest number of cancellations (364) was related to crew availability, up from the third quarter of FY2022 when there were 225 cancellations due to crewing. Training to bolster available crew is ongoing, but attrition has reduced the net gain of employees to 61 in 2022. As of March 31, 2023, there were 1,148 licensed and unlicensed deck positions but only 1,022 crewmembers available.

There were 353 vessel mechanical breakdowns compared to 18 in the same quarter of FY2022. A bent propeller on the M/V Puyallup caused 237 missed trips in January. Drive motor issues on the M/V Tillikum caused 50 cancellations in January and 10 in February. When the turbo system was out of service on the M/V Samish in January, 18 trips were cancelled. The M/V Tokitae had 14 cancellations when the turbo charger malfunctioned. The remaining 24 vessel-related cancellations occurred on various vessels with no more than six cancellations per event.

Weather caused 54 cancellations and tides accounted for 43 cancelled trips. There were 37 schedule resets that occurred when vessels were so late it was necessary to cancel trips to re-establish an on-time schedule. The transfer span was out of service at the Edmonds Terminal in February causing 11 cancellations. The majority (11 of 17) of emergency and security cancellations were for medical emergencies. The remaining 11 cancellations occurred for a variety of reasons and resulted in no more than six cancellations for any one event.

FY2023 Q2 (October - December 2022)

There were 1,008 trip cancellations system-wide for the quarter, and WSF replaced 24 of them for a total of 984 net missed trips.

The largest category for cancellations (481) was crewing. WSF continues to train new crew members, but additional crew are still needed. Vessel breakdowns accounted for the second highest number of cancellations (194). A malfunction of the main engine turbo on the M/V Suquamish caused 43 cancellations, and a control transfer failure caused an additional 10 cancellations on the same vessel. A switchboard breaker issue on the M/V Yakima led to 33 cancellations. Steering problems caused 24 cancellations on the M/V Salish and 17 on the M/V Kitsap. A faulty propulsion charger resulted in 17 cancellations on the M/V Issaquah and a governor replacement on the M/V Tillikum was responsible for 10 missed trips. The 40 remaining vessel related cancellations occurred on a variety of vessels with no more than six trips missed during an event.

WSF canceled 175 trips due to severe weather, with 135 cancellations occurring during the ice storm in December. Tides caused 80 cancellations with 68 on the Port Townsend/Coupeville route where these cancellations normally occur due to the shallow landing area in Coupeville during low tides. Unusually high tides resulted in 12 cancellations on the Point Defiance/Tahlequah route when the vehicle transfer span was too high to line up with the vessel at the Point Defiance terminal.

There were 29 cancellations for schedule resets; these occurred when vessels became so late that canceling a trip was required to get the vessel sailings back on schedule. Eight of the 15 terminal-related cancellations occurred when there was a hydraulic leak in the vehicle transfer span at the Edmonds Terminal. Medical emergencies caused 10 trip cancellations. The remaining 24 cancellations were due to various reasons with no one event causing more than six missed trips.

FY2023 Q1 (July - September 2022)

In the first quarter of FY2023, WSF continued the alternate service plan put in place in October 2022 with up to 15 vessels running system-wide. In the same quarter of FY2022, WSF operated on a modified schedule with 17 vessels. Before COVID-19, WSF typically ran 18 or 19 vessels during July - September.

In the first quarter of FY2023, WSF canceled 902 trips and replaced 73 of them, resulting in 829 net missed trips. This was 255 more net missed trips compared to the same quarter in FY2022.

Of the 829 net missed trips, 372 (41.2%) were due to lack of available crew. The routes with the highest number of crewing cancellations were the San Juan Domestic route with 174 and the Mukilteo/Clinton route had 87. Lack of licensed deck officers caused 208 of the crewing-related cancellations system-wide. The Seattle/Bremerton and Edmonds/Kingston routes had no crewing cancellations because a standby vessel was available on these routes under the alternate service plan.

Vessel mechanical issues resulted in 331 (36.7%) of the cancellations during the quarter. There were 43 cancellations when the M/V Chelan lost propulsion. The M/V Kitsap missed 36 trips due to a steering issue. The M/V Tillikum experienced five events that caused a total of 80 missed trips, which included two, separate drive motor issues (36); low oil pressure (20); a speed switch sensor malfunction (14); and crab pot lines entangled in the propeller (10). There were 38 cancellations due to engine cooler leaks on three vessels: M/V Salish (21), M/V Chetzemoka (9) and M/V Sealth (8). The M/V Issaquah canceled 43 trips due to a problem with a main engine (26) and a faulty breaker (17). Drive motor issues caused 18 missed trips on the M/V Chelan and 12 missed trips on the M/V Yakima.

There were 80 cancellations for schedule resets, which occur when vessels become so delayed that a trip is canceled to reestablish a workable schedule. Tides caused 39 cancellations on the Port Townsend/ Coupeville route and there were 12 cancellations for weather-related events. Emergencies led to 45 cancellations, with 26 of those resulting when the M/V Cathlamet crashed into the landing dolphin at Fauntleroy Terminal on July 28, 2022. The remaining cancellations were scattered among a variety of causes with no more than six cancellations occurring under a single circumstance.

FY2022 Q4 (April - June 2022)

WSF typically has 19 vessels in service during the fourth quarter; however, due to the plan no more than 15 vessels operated. WSF continues to review service needs, workforce (crew) capacity, vessel availability, and service levels for opportunities to restore additional service.

During the quarter, 644 trips were canceled with 47 replaced for a total of 597 net missed trips. This was 183 more net missed trips than the same quarter of FY2021. Of the 644 canceled trips for the quarter, 272 (42.2%) were due to lack of available crew. WSF has faced significant crewing issues since the pandemic began; they were the primary reason for the reduced level of service during the quarter.

Vessel mechanical breakdowns led to 191 trips canceled during the quarter. An anchor malfunction on the M/V Yakima caused 55 cancellations. The M/V Kaleetan had a hard landing at a terminal leading to 16 cancellations. A drive motor problem on the M/V Wenatchee resulted in 11 cancellations. The public address system was out of order on the M/V Kitsap, leading to 28 canceled trips. The M/V Issaquah had an issue with the steering system causing 24 cancellations. Twelve trips were missed due to a problem with the propulsion system on the M/V Salish; a generator malfunction on the M/V Spokane led to 11 cancellations; eight cancellations occurred when a clutch air leak was discovered on the M/V Kittitas. Various causes led to the remaining 26 vessel breakdowns, with no more than six trips cancellations for any one event.

Tides accounted for 61 cancellations and severe weather for 16, all of which occurred on the Port Townsend/Coupeville route. This route is the most vulnerable to tides and weather patterns passing through the Puget Sound region.

There were 30 schedule resets, which occur when a vessel is so far behind schedule that it is necessary to show a missed trip to get the vessel back on schedule. Emergencies accounted for 25 cancellations, with six for search and rescue missions. The remaining 49 cancellations were due to miscellaneous reasons including issues at terminals, events like disabled vehicles, environmental issues, and non-vessel related incidents that can impact operations.

FY2022 Q3 (January - March 2022)

In the third quarter of FY2022, WSF canceled 394 trips and replaced 43 of them, resulting in 351 net missed trips. This was 309 (46.8%) fewer than the 660 net missed trips during the same quarter in FY2021.

Of the 394 trips canceled during the quarter, the highest number of cancellations (225) was related to crew availability. Exposure to COVID-19 could result in a crew member having to quarantine and other potentially-affected crew, identified through contact tracing, having to do the same. Thus, one case of COVID-19 could affect an entire deck crew (up to 11 people).

Tides accounted for 38 canceled trips and weather caused 26 cancellations. There were 23 schedule resets that occurred when vessels were so late it was necessary to cancel their trips to re-establish an on-time schedule. The majority (19 of 24) of emergency and security cancellations were for medical emergencies. There were 18 trips canceled on various vessels due to vessel mechanical breakdowns. The remaining 40 cancellations occurred for a variety of reasons and resulted in no more than six cancellations for any one event.

FY2022 Q2 (October - December 2021)

Crewing issues cause most cancellations

There were 1,073 trip cancellations systemwide and WSF replaced 57 of them for a total of 1,016 net missed trips. The majority of cancellations (615) were related to crewing. COVID-19 exposures had a two-fold effect on crew:

  • Crew members who test positive for COVID-19 must quarantine.
  • Crew members who worked with that individual (identified through contact tracing) must also quarantine. In October, service on the Point Defiance/Tahlequah route was suspended for three days due to crewing, and Vashon Island travelers had to use the Fauntleroy/Vashon/ Southworth route to travel to and from the island.

The category with the second highest number of missed trips (210) was vessel breakdowns. Unplanned maintenance in October accounted for 105 cancellations for the M/V Tillikum, which also had an electrical problem in December that caused 76 additional missed trips. The M/V Chetzemoka experienced 19 cancellations in October due to a failed service generator. The remaining vessel related cancellations (10) covered a variety of brief service interruptions on various routes. There were 97 cancellations for schedule resets; these occurred when vessels became so late that canceling the trip was required to get the vessel sailings back on schedule. When the main bridge hoist motor at the M/V Tahlequah terminal froze in December due to the extremely cold temperatures, 19 trips were canceled. WSF canceled 40 trips due to rough seas and high winds that included gale warnings, and canceled 39 trips due to tides. There were also 14 missed trips due to medical emergencies. The remaining cancellations were due to various reasons with no one event causing more than six missed trips.

FY2022 Q1 (July - September 2021)

Crewing issues cause most cancellations

In the first quarter of FY2022, WSF canceled 619 trips and replaced 45 of them, resulting in 574 trips net missed trips. This was 395 fewer net missed trips compared to the same quarter in FY2021.

Of the 619 canceled trips, 341 were due to lack of available crew—from the lack of credentialed mariners globally, numerous retirements, and loss of crew from impending vaccine mandate for state workers. Over half of the crewing cancellations occurred in September, and crewing shortages affected every route.

There were 119 cancellations due to vessel mechanical issues during the quarter. A new propulsion clutch was installed on the M/V Cathlamet at the beginning of July which failed later that month and caused 23 missed trips. Also in July, the M/V Walla Walla experienced a generator failure that accounted for 14 canceled trips. In August, 20 trips were canceled when an emergency generator malfunctioned on the M/V Chetzemoka. In September, the relief valve on the M/V Tillikum's whistle air tank failed, causing 14 missed trips, and the M/V Walla Walla experienced a drive motor problem leading to 17 canceled trips. The remaining cancellations due to mechanical issues occurred across multiple vessels with no more than six cancellations on any one vessel.

There were 64 cancellations for schedule resets, which occur when vessels become so delayed that a trip is canceled to reestablish a workable schedule. Tides caused 24 cancellations on the Port Townsend/ Coupeville route and there were 22 cancellations for weather-related events. Medical emergencies led to 18 cancellations, and 10 trips were canceled when vessels were redeployed to other routes and were not able to provide service during the move. The remaining cancellations were scattered among a variety of causes with no more than six cancellations occurring under a single circumstance.

WSF continues to address the extended effects of the pandemic and challenges in recruiting and training enough new crew members for vessels. With the high volume of cancellations in the quarter and loss of crew from a vaccine mandate for state workers, WSF developed an alternate service schedule that reduces service by one vessel on multiple routes. The alternate schedule was not in place during the first quarter of FY2022, but will be in place during the second quarter of FY2022.

FY2021 Q2 (April - June 2021)

Vessel mechanical issues cause most cancellations

Of the 433 canceled trips, 162 were related to vessel mechanical issues (refer to chart at right). In April, a failed turbo on the M/V Tillikum caused 26 cancellations, and a steering malfunction on the M/V Chelan resulted in 12 cancellations. In May, a main engine went out of service on the M/V Samish, causing 13 cancellations. In June, a steering failure on the M/V Salish led to an additional 66 cancellations of which 36 could not be replaced because no relief vessel was available. Later in June, the M/V Salish experienced a main engine failure that resulted in 15 cancellations, and an oil leak on the M/V Chelan caused eight canceled trips. The remaining 22 cancellations due to vessel mechanical issues were on various vessels with no more than six occurrences on any vessel.

Insufficient crewing accounted for the second-highest category of cancellations with 106 trips canceled on various routes during the quarter. WSF has faced significant crew staffing issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, training has been a challenge with fewer sessions held to bring on new crew members. Tides accounted for 61 cancellations, all of which occurred on the Port Townsend/Coupeville route. The terminal at Keystone Harbor—where the Coupeville terminal is located on Whidbey Island—is narrow and shallow, so tidal variations have a more significant impact there than on other routes.

FY2021 Q3 (Januarly - March 2021)

Weather and tides issues cause most cancellations

In the third quarter of FY2021, WSF canceled 702 trips and replaced 42 of them, resulting in 660 net missed trips. This was 371 more than the 289 net missed trips during the same quarter in FY2020. Of the 702 trips canceled during the quarter, 458 (65.2%) were due to weather and tides. During record-setting snowfall in February, some crew members were unable to get to vessels and this accounted for 179 trip cancellations. Another 144 cancellations resulted from WSF's activation of its severe weather schedule, which reduces service on every route except the Point Defiance/Tahlequah and Port Townsend/Coupeville routes. High winds and gale warnings resulted in 86 canceled trips, and tides accounted for 49 cancellations.

The second highest cancellation category was vessel breakdowns (148). In February, a clutch problem on the M/V Cathlamet—which was a result of warranty repairs to the reduction gear following a planned reduction gear overhaul preservation activity —caused the vessel to go out of service and miss 110 trips. In March, a main diesel engine electronic control unit failure on the M/V Tokitae resulted in 22 missed trips. The remaining 16 vessel-related cancellations occurred on five routes due to various mechanical issues.

The majority (30) of the 32 Emergency & Security cancellations were due to medical emergencies. Nineteen other cancellations occurred due to lack of crew availability when WSF was unable provide the minimum crew to meet U.S. Coast Guard requirements.

FY2021 Q2 (October - December 2020)

Vessel mechanical issues cause most cancellations

In the second quarter of FY2021, WSF canceled 437 trips but was able to replace 35 of them, resulting in 402 net missed trips. This was 230 more net missed trips compared to the same quarter in FY2020. Due to the reduction in passengers during the COVID-19 pandemic, WSF remained on a modified winter schedule, which resulted in approximately 10% (4,067) fewer sailings scheduled than in the same quarter last year when there were 40,757.

There were no scheduled trips on the Anacortes/Friday Harbor/Sidney, B.C. route because the border between the United States and Canada remained closed to non-essential travelers due to COVID-19, which accounted for 184 of all reduced scheduled trips during the quarter.

The majority of missed trips (208) were related to vessels. During routine maintenance in November, a hole was discovered on the vehicle deck of the M/V Spokane, which is assigned to the Seattle/Bremerton route. The vessel was taken out of service, and because there was no replacement vessel available, 71 cancellations occurred. In October, a lightning strike disabled the navigation system on the M/V Puyallup, resulting in 39 cancelled trips on the Edmonds/Kingston route. High winds and fog resulted in 60 cancellations and tides added an additional 41. In December 2020, the new Mukilteo terminal opened. This required WSF to relocate the slip from the old terminal to the new one, which led to 52 cancellations on December 29.

FY2021 Q1 (July - September 2020)

COVID-19 issues cause most cancellations

In the first quarter of FY2021, WSF canceled 1,005 trips but was able to replace 36 of them, resulting in 969 net missed trips. This was 783 more net missed trips compared to the same quarter in FY2020. Due to the reduction in passengers resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, WSF remained on a modified winter schedule, which resulted in 18.7% fewer sailings scheduled than in the same quarter last year when there were 42,817. No scheduled trips occurred on the Anacortes/Friday Harbor/Sidney, B.C. route because Canada closed its borders to international travellers due to COVID-19.

The majority of missed trips (714) were due to service reductions related to COVID-19. Over 100 WSF crew members were reassigned with teleworking tasks or on leave because they were in high-risk health groups. Due to the resulting vessel-staffing challenges, WSF canceled sailings on the Mukilteo/ Clinton and Edmonds/Kingston routes during some weekend days in all of July and the first three weekends in August. These reductions were in addition to the modified winter schedule and were counted as missed trips because there was not enough advance notice to change the published schedule.

FY2020 Q4 (April - June 2020)

COVID-19 issues cause most cancellations

During the quarter, 305 trips were canceled and 19 were replaced, for a total of 286 net missed trips. This was 22 fewer net missed trips than in the same quarter in 2019. Of the 305 canceled trips for the quarter, 107 were due to COVID-19; over 100 WSF crew members have been reassigned teleworking tasks or on leave because they are in high-risk groups. Due to the resulting vessel-staffing challenges, WSF canceled sailings on the Mukilteo/Clinton and Edmonds/Kingston routes during three weekend days in June. These reductions were in addition to the extended winter schedule noted above, and were counted as missed trips because there was not enough advance notice to change the published schedule.

Tides accounted for 71 cancellations, all of which occurred on the Port Townsend/Coupeville route. The terminal at Keystone Harbor—where the Coupeville terminal is located on Whidbey Island—is narrow and shallow, so tidal variations have a more significant impact there. The third-highest cancellation category was vessel mechanical issues, which accounted for 56 cancellations. During the quarter, eight vessels experienced mechanical breakdowns. The most significant breakdowns occurred in April, when steering issues on the M/V Salish caused 28 cancellations and a rudder problem on the M/V Samish resulted in 14 missed trips. The remaining 14 mechanical-related cancellations were scattered throughout the quarter, with no more than five missed trips on any one route.

Of the remaining cancellations not mentioned earlier, 32 occurred on various routes when crew members called in sick and could not be replaced; 15 due to terminal issues that prevented vessels from docking (12 at Fauntleroy and three at Southworth); and 13 due to medical evacuations from Vashon and Southworth to Fauntleroy taking precedence over normally scheduled service. On the Mukilteo/Clinton route eight trips were cancelled due to a schedule reset which occurs when the vessel is so far delayed that it gets back on schedule.

FY2020 Q3 (Januarly - March 2020)

Vessel mechanical issues cause most cancellations

In the third quarter of FY2020, WSF canceled 393 trips and was able to replace 104 of them, resulting in 289 net missed trips. This was four fewer net missed trips than the 293 missed during the same quarter in FY2019. WSF's service reliability remained high during the quarter despite a significant snowstorm in January.

Of the 393 total canceled trips for the quarter, the majority (236) were due to mechanical problems on various vessels, primarily those on the Fauntleroy/ Vashon/Southworth route. Normally this route operates with three boats, but if one vessel breaks down, the route becomes a two-boat operation with additional sailings added to mitigate the net loss of trips. On this route, the M/V Kittitas had two mechanical issues (an engine failure and a fire main leak) in January and March, resulting in 107 total cancellations and 37 replacement trips. In February, the M/V Issaquah had a problem with oil pressure leading to 95 canceled trips, of which 56 were replaced by going to a two-boat schedule. Mechanical issues also led to 34 cancellations on the Domestic San Juan route in February and March, none of which were replaced.

The second most common cause of cancellations was tides and weather, with 123 canceled trips, none of which were replaced. There were 64 cancellations for high winds and 55 due to tides on the Port Townsend/Coupeville route. Four trips were canceled on the Domestic San Juan route due to snow.

Other cancellations on various routes included 17 for medical emergencies, eight for crewing problems, and nine for miscellaneous reasons.

FY2020 Q2 (October - December 2019)

Vessel availability issues cause most cancellations

Most of the trip cancellations (308) were due to lack of vessel availability. The Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth route operated a two-boat schedule instead of its normal three vessels from October 28-31, 2019, when the M/V Cathlamet was out for unplanned maintenance. This two-boat schedule resulted in 254 canceled trips, but 144 trips were added to the route for a net loss of 110 trips.

Low tides on the Port Townsend/Coupeville route accounted for the second highest number of cancellations with 56.

FY2020 Q1 (July - September 2019)

Weather and tides issues cause most cancellations

In the first quarter of FY2020, WSF canceled 229 trips but was able to replace 43 of them, resulting in 186 net missed trips. This was 284 fewer net missed trips compared to the same quarter in FY2019.

Multiple vessels were out of service for unplanned maintenance during the first quarters of FY2018 and FY2019, which contributed to the lower reliability rates.

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