Staffing shortages cause massive impact for Washington State Ferries

A shortage of workers is being blamed for rising delays and cancellations for Washington State Ferries.

Many longtime ferry employees retired when COVID-19 hit.

Then 2021 happened, and passengers suddenly returned in droves — all as the hiring process for new ferry workers dragged on.

As a result, the ferry system was stretched so thin that even a single sick call from an employee caused the cancellation of ferry rides.

It’s meant the same people have worked overtime to make ferry rides a success.

“You have people giving up their days off over and over and over again and people not going on vacation just to try to keep the system operating,” said Ian Sterling with Washington State Ferries.

Ferry workers said things are about to get slightly better.

That’s because a training academy for ship oilers is about to graduate, meaning several new workers will be added in a matter of weeks.

For their part, passengers told KIRO 7 they are taking the delays and cancellations in stride.

“You take the dog out, take a quick walk before the long drive across the peninsula,” said ferry rider Donna Dahlstrom

“Nowadays, it’s a little easier because we have some distractions with the phone, and we can play some music for the kids,” added passenger Josh McCormick.

According to Washington State Ferries, 57 trips have been canceled this year because of staffing shortages.

That’s 57 trips out of more than 10,000.

Problems with the ferry fleet have also impacted operations.

And the fleet will only be back to normal until 2024.