More trouble for Washington State Ferries: 38% of vessels are out of service

Nov 14, 2023, 7:50 AM | Updated: 8:35 am

randall federal funding ferry...

A Washington ferry heads away from Seattle on April 6, 2020 in Seattle. (Photo: Karen Ducey, Getty Images)

(Photo: Karen Ducey, Getty Images)

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) confirmed to KIRO Newsradio Monday that 38% of the vessels in the Washington State Ferries (WSF) fleet are out of service for various reasons.

WSF Communications Consultant Brian Vail explained to KIRO Newsradio Monday that the Yakima ferry, which services Anacortes and the San Juan Islands, has been out of service since Saturday with electrical issues. The vessel maintenance staff and contractors are continuing to work on it, Vail added.

Vail told KIRO Newsradio that with the Yakima out of service until its work is completed, eight ships — or nearly 40% — are on the sidelines at this time.

“So that means eight of our 21 vessels are out for service right now,” Vail said. “So we’re down to 13 operating vessels this week.”

The Seattle-Bainbridge route will drop to one ferry Tuesday for some vessel maintenance on the Issaquah.

“They’re hoping it’ll just be a one-day project. We’ll know more once they … get under the boat and figure out exactly what they’re looking at,” Vail said to KIRO Newsradio.

The agency hopes two-boat service can be restored to that route by Wednesday.

Other vessel issues

The Seattle-Bremerton and Edmonds-Kingston routes already are down to one boat each.

The agency has 10 routes that run regularly, and Vail reiterated just 13 vessels are running currently. So, it is evident they can’t afford to lose many  more boats

“Hopefully, before we lose any more vessels, we’ll be able to get some of our eight vessels that are out on built they’ll be back online here soon in the next month or so,” Vail said.

More from Micki Gamez: Gov. Inslee, some local residents speak out about ads on ferry exteriors

Late last month after the Chimacum was docked after a rod got caught in one of its engines. Ian Sterling, WSF’s director of communications, referred to an old video game to describe filling the ferry schedule.

“It’s ferry Tetris right and there’s no good solutions but you can leave Bremerton with zero boats, zero service and that’s not going to make people very happy and it’s not fair to that route,” Sterling said to KIRO 7.

When asked about when WSF would be adding new vessels to its fleet, Vail told KIRO Newsradio that it won’t be soon and it can be measured in years, not weeks or months.

“Oh, 2027 I believe is the timeline right now,” Vail said. “Like for our new, like a new the new boats that are being built or will be built? … That’s the timeline.”

WSF’s tracking map is back in service

The WSF real-time tracking map is back in service, after malfunctioning Monday morning.

It’s unclear if the trouble is related to last week’s cyber attack. The agency confirmed last week that the cyber incident is responsible for outages affecting its website and apps.

The attack, which began Tuesday, was aimed at interrupting real-time travel information for travelers, WSDOT said, according to KIRO 7.

Outage reported: WSDOT confirms cyberattack responsible for recent website and app issues

The hack delayed winter ferry reservations.

Due to crew and boat shortages, not as many winter ferry reservations will be taken. Ferry managers hope the extra standby space will ensure reservation holders get on the next boat if their ferry is canceled.

Delays at the Mukilteo Ferry Terminal

Contractors are widening the sidewalk at the bridge on State Route 525. It will close the holding lane between Third and First streets over the railroad tracks.

Officers will be on hand during peak hours to guide drivers through any confusion.

Pedestrians will still have bridge access.

The seven-day project begins Tuesday.

Contributing: Diane Duthweiler and Nate Connors, KIRO Newsradio

Steve Coogan is the lead editor for MyNorthwest. Micki Gamez is a transportation reporter at KIRO Newsradio.

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More trouble for Washington State Ferries: 38% of vessels are out of service