Washington State Ferries, the country's largest ferry system, temporarily reduces trips on 70% of routes because of severe staffing shortages

·2 min read
A passenger on a Washington state ferry with the Space Needle behind him
Friday was a "rough service day" for Washington State Ferries, with trips cancelled on most routes. Ted S. Warren/AP Photo
  • Washington State Ferries said it cut trips on 70% of its routes amid staffing shortages.

  • About 140 sailings were canceled on Friday, The Seattle Times reported.

  • The service said on Twitter that Friday had been "a rough service day due to lack of crew."

Washington State Ferries (WSF) on Friday cut the number of ferries or trips on 70% of its routes because of staffing shortages.

The agency said it was forced to reduce service and cancel about 140 trips, The Seattle Times reported. Other trips were delayed in "a rough service day due to lack of crew," WSF said on Twitter.

About 202 of almost 1,600 total WSF staff were out on vacation, family leave, and medical appointments, the Times reported, adding that another 28 people were out sick on Friday.

WSF did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

WSF said on Twitter that it expected reduced service for the next few days. It said it would be hard "to predict what weekend service will look like."

A WSF spokesperson told the Times that it's becoming increasingly difficult to find available employees to fill open shifts.

"This is due to many variables including an ageing workforce, pre-pandemic worldwide maritime industry recruitment challenges and vacancies, COVID-19 quarantines and isolation, and leave related to the anticipated departure of staff in key positions required to run the fleet," WSF said on Twitter.

ferry
WSF managers expect reduced service for the next few days. Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

The agency has struggled with crew shortages since the coronavirus pandemic began, the Times reported in September. At least 87 ferry workers were infected with COVID-19 and 400 have had to quarantine after potential exposure, reports said.

On Friday, WSF said routes from Seattle to Bainbridge Island and to Bremerton each dropped to one boat, half the usual number. The Point Defiance-Tahlequah route was canceled most of Friday, but planned to resume at 6.30 p.m., WSF said.

"Like other Washingtonians, I am concerned with the lack of crewing on our state ferry vessels and the subsequent missed sailings," Governor Jay Inslee said in an email to the Times.

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