Service on most routes to be reduced due to severe staff shortages
SEATTLE – Beginning Saturday, Oct. 16, Washington State Ferries will temporarily operate reduced schedules on most routes to provide more predictable and reliable travel. The change comes as the system is exercising maximum effort to crew its sailings in the face of a global shortage of mariners that has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
The severe staff shortages are also due to many other variables including an aging workforce, COVID-19 cases and quarantines. Given what has happened to the response to calls to fill positions on recent weekends, WSF feels there is too much uncertainty to continue the schedule at this moment. WSF will continue to evaluate and strive to return additional boats back into service on a daily basis. Ferry customers are encouraged to monitor the agency website, the WSDOT app and social media channels for updates.
Route-by-route schedule changes
Starting Saturday, Oct. 16, the following sailing schedules will be in operation:
- Seattle/Bainbridge, Edmonds/Kingston and Mukilteo/Clinton: One-boat service instead of two
- Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth: Two-boat schedule instead of three
- Anacortes/San Juan Islands: Three-boat schedule instead of four with temporary suspension of vehicle reservations
- Seattle/Bremerton: Continued reduced one-boat service instead of two
- Point Defiance/Tahlequah: Continued one-boat service as normal
- Port Townsend/Coupeville: Continued one-boat service with vehicle reservations as normal for this time of year
“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve worked hard to maintain reliable service, completing the vast majority of sailings,” said Patty Rubstello, head of WSF. “However, to better reflect the service we can currently provide and to minimize last-minute cancelations due to a lack of crew, we made this difficult decision to adjust our schedules.”
Recruiting new employees
Although COVID-19 has not allowed WSF to hire or train new recruits at the same rate as prior to the pandemic, more than 150 new crewmembers have been brought on this year. Prior to COVID-19, WSF hired new crewmembers once a year leading into the busy season. The system is now continuously recruiting new employees, but is struggling to find qualified mariners. WSF is also expanding its recruitment efforts with maritime academies across the country.
WSF, a division of the Washington State Department of Transportation, is the largest ferry system in the U.S. and safely and efficiently carries tens of millions of people a year through some of the most majestic scenery in the world. The system is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. For breaking news and the latest information, follow WSF on Twitter and Facebook.