Power outage to blame for state ferries website failure after weekend of delays, reduced sailings
It started overnight between last Thursday and Friday, when over 140 sailings were canceled over staffing shortages across the Washington State Ferries (WSF) organization. It was then followed by a weekend of reduced sailings and rescheduled boats, and now, WSF is dealing with a website outage affecting the Washington State Department of Transportation’s public-facing schedules, alerts, cameras, and mobile app.
The outages — which appear to be consistent across the WSDOT website — were reported around 10 p.m. Sunday. While technicians have been working on a fix in the hours since, WSF’s pages for its ferry schedules, alerts, and cameras were still redirecting toward a “404” error page until at least 8a.m. The website appeared to be back to normal Monday afternoon. Phones and customer service call center were also down.
WSDOT said a power outage was to blame: “An extensive power outage took down our website and travel information, thank you for your patience as we get these services back online.”
Last week’s issues were the direct result of staffing problems, with the ferry service citing COVID-19 restrictions that have “not allowed us to hire or train new recruits at the same rate as prior to the pandemic.”
While WSF typically ramps up hiring once a year before the summer begins, it says it is now “continuously recruiting new employees” to account for its lack of deckhands.
Others have theorized that ferry workers may have been calling out sick in protest of the upcoming COVID vaccine mandate for state workers, taking effect on Oct. 18.
“What you see today is the direct result of the mandates, people refusing to show up to work,” Republican state Rep. Andrew Barkis told MyNorthwest. “Whether this is a protest, whether it is a taste of what’s to come here in the next week, this is very concerning.”
Ryan Brazeau — a representative with the Inland Boatmen’s Union — contested that claim, though, telling KIRO Radio that of their 1,000 deckhands, just 40 have not revealed their vaccination status, and that the vaccine mandate is likely not to blame for recent shortages.
“I think it’d be shocking to everyone if people gave up these jobs,” Brazeau said. “They’re great jobs, they’d be giving up a pension, a retirement, and all that comes with it.”
Brazeau further noted that the majority of deckhands want to work, and have been putting in overtime to help out.
WSDOT is encouraging people to follow a curated list of Twitter accounts for updates. The account is also posting job openings.