Washington State Ferries to operate reduced schedules due to staff shortages

Oct 13, 2021, 5:11 PM | Updated: Oct 15, 2021, 8:46 pm
ferry, ferries...
Ferry waits at Edmonds Terminal. (Chris Sullivan/KIRO Radio)
(Chris Sullivan/KIRO Radio)

Starting Saturday, Oct. 16, Washington State Ferries will temporarily operate reduced schedules on most routes in order “to provide more predictable and reliable travel” while the system is short staffed.

‘Never have I seen anything like this’: Staffing shortages cancel over 140 ferry sailings on Friday

The change comes, according to the state ferry system, as it is trying to crew all its sailings in the face of a global shortage of mariners, which it says has only been made worse by the pandemic. These “severe” staff shortages are due to many factors, WSF says, including an aging workforce, COVID-19 cases and quarantine.

“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,” states a release about the change. “WSF will continue to evaluate and strive to return additional boats back into service on a daily basis.”

The WSF website, WSDOT app, and social media channels will be the best ways to stay updated.

The following sailing schedules will be in operation as of Oct. 16:

  • 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

Dozens of Washington state ferry sailings were canceled last Friday due to staffing shortages across numerous routes. KIRO Radio Traffic Reporter Tracy Taylor reported early that morning that there had been a total of 141 cancelled sailings for the day, as well hours-long delays for many other routes. Sailings were eliminated again both Saturday and Sunday.

Power outage to blame for state ferries website failure after weekend of delays, reduced sailings

The ferry system said last week’s issues were the direct result of staffing problems, citing COVID-19 restrictions that have “not allowed us to hire or train new recruits at the same rate as prior to the pandemic.”

The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.

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Washington State Ferries to operate reduced schedules due to staff shortages