Gov. Inslee hopes state lawmakers will ‘be more attentive’ to ferry system’s needs

Oct 15, 2021, 5:01 AM
The front of the "Puyallup" ferry in Washington. (MyNorthwest photo)
(MyNorthwest photo)

After a weekend full of canceled routes on Washington State Ferries, the ferry system announced that it would be temporarily operating most routes on reduced schedules.

Washington State Ferries to operate reduced schedules due to staff shortages

One of the main reasons for the cancelations and reduced schedules has been due to staff shortages. While it’s not entirely due to people leaving or protesting against the statewide COVID-19 vaccine mandate, that is believed to have had an impact. Ferry workers are included in the mandate, and the deadline for them to be vaccinated, have an exemption, or risk losing their job is Monday, Oct. 18.

In a media briefing Thursday, Gov. Inslee was asked about the status of the ferry system.

“There are many reasons the ferries have been stressed,” he said. “There have been staffing challenges, there are mechanical challenge with an aging fleet.”

“One of the things we’re doing is asking the legislators for enough money to help fix these problems,” Inslee explained. “Unfortunately, the Legislature has not appropriated what I have suggested we need to fix those problems.”

He says he hopes that come January, state lawmakers “will be more attentive” to these issues and will help work toward solutions.

“The ferry system is and will have an accelerated recruitment program for staffing to find people for these jobs,” Inslee said. “We also, I think, are going to need to look at the staffing model that the ferry system has to make it a more attractive place to work.”

“To change that staffing model takes additional dollars and the legislation is going to need to help solve that problem to make it a more attractive place to come to work,” he added. “That has been a long-standing challenge for the boats.”

With state’s ferries in a ‘critical situation,’ solutions are months, years to come

The state ferry system made the decision to reduce schedules after problems with staffing over the last two weekends. Inslee said it that the staffing shortages are believed in part to be due to people who wanted to demonstrate “their displeasure” with the vaccine requirement, so they were unwilling to come to work. To avoid that happening again, and in anticipation of additional staffing challenges during a global shortage of mariners, the ferry system made the call for a temporary schedule change.

“I believe it will improve overtime,” Inslee said. “I may also note that the ferry system will attempt to add boats on a daily basis.”

Stay up to date on the current ferry schedules online here.

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Gov. Inslee hopes state lawmakers will ‘be more attentive’ to ferry system’s needs