Edmonds/Kingston route down to one-boat service as ferry system experiences crew shortages

A ferry arrives at the Edmonds dock. (File photo by David Carlos)

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.


  1. Some talk about plans to accommodate a third ferry to serve the run between Edmonds and Kingston. Right now the Washington State Ferry is struggling with a second one.

  2. The 3rd boat is more than talk, it is in their plan. It will be smaller and one of the new types of electric boats.

    1. Darrol you’re right. The ferry system has plenty of plans. Unfortunately, what they lack right now, and as far as the eye can see, is boats, personnel, money, leadership, and infrastructure.

  3. Yes and those plans are backed up with forecasts of ridership. Edmonds/Kingston forecasts point to a 3rd boat of the electric type that will carry fewer cars.

  4. The ferries will not be operating..things are about to get interesting. Many are NOT going to get vaccinated. Like hospitals, fire fighters…any state employee. That will shut them down.

  5. I agree with Joy. Even a minor percentage of missing employees is crippling to vital industries. The largest group of dissenters work in those roles. We may be about to find out who actually drives society. As if the paralyzing shortages in healthcare wasn’t a big enough clue.

  6. Anyone who has ever owned a saltwater boat, especially a metal boat, can tell you that the WSF system is a giant hole in the water into which much money will have to be thrown; and the costs will continue to arise exponentially into the future. It is also a system heavy in general Navigation and Union requirements that cost lots of money. We are just a few years from when a trip to Kingston from Edmonds, or the reverse, will be pushing the $50 envelope for car and driver (without mass infusions of non system generated funding).

    Smaller and more numerous ferries will require more Waterfront land for docking and parking of waiting vehicles. Edmonds will pay a price for this in waterfront access and possible uses. The best thing possible for Edmonds would be for the State to decide to route the Kingston run elsewhere, say at the disputed Richmond Beach property. What will happen is the cheapest possible solution for the State, whatever that ends up being. Edmonds will just have to adjust to whatever that is, with whatever leverage to affect the outcome it can muster.

  7. The ferries are not sailing due to the 1) COVID lockdowns ,2) the government perpetual paying people to not work, and 3) governor Inslee’s idiotic jab mandates.

    1. Thanks for clearing that up. Here I thought it was all because Inslee didn’t get a hospital ship before, so he was retrofitting them to make his own fleet… Hang curtains between the benches, I mean beds, and then wait for the federal health care workers he requested to arrive.

  8. I’m sure private industry could run the ferry system more efficiently. No, wait a minute, private, industry couldn’t charge enough to make a profit so the state took it over. Yep, it’s all Inslee’s fault for sure.

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