Those who receive alerts for the Edmonds/Kingston ferry run may have noticed a bit of jolting news Friday morning, with a total of 24 sailings — 12 in each direction — canceled due to lack of Coast Guard-documented crew.
“It’s the largest number of cancellations for lack of crew in recent memory,” said Ian Sterling, Washington State Ferries (WSF) public information officer, of the reduction from two-boat to one-boat service. “There’s a global shortage of mariners that has severely impacted WSF along with BC Ferries and lots of other marine operators.” As a result, the ferry system hasn’t been able to put together the required Coast Guard-certified crews to make all sailings, he added.
In addition, on Friday “a number of employees also called in sick” and there were no backup crews available, Sterling said.
Sailings will be limited to one-boat on Saturday as well, the ferry system said in a Friday evening alert.
The staffing issue hasn’t been limited to Edmonds, with Seattle routes to Bainbridge Island and Bremerton, and the Mukilteo-Clinton routes, all down to one boat each. Other routes were also impacted.
Sterling also added that Gov. Jay Inslee’s mandate that all state employees be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 “may also affect staffing.” The Seattle Times reported Friday there have been rumors in recent weeks of ferry employee sickouts or workers preparing to quit soon due to the mandate.
Lars Erickson, Washington State Department of Transportation communications director, told The Times that as of Friday some 87% of ferry employees have shown proof of vaccination.