State’s ferry woes continue with 6 boats out of service

SEATTLE — Our region’s ferry woes continued Wednesday when riders on several routes saw delays and cancellations.

Washington State Ferries says there are six boats out of service and have informed lawmakers about the issues.

Officials say there are two major issues impacting the ferry system: the condition of some older vessels, and crew shortages.

“I’ve run late a couple of times,” said ferry rider Brian Moreland.

Ferry riders like Moreland say that over the last few years, the ferry system has become unreliable.

The ferry Walla Walla was taken out of service on Friday when crews found damage to one of its propellers.

Since then, officials say it has been a game of Tetris, reassigning fleets, which has impacted passengers who take the Edmonds-Kingston ferry.

“I go to Kingston, I go to work, so time is kind of the essence,” said Moreland.

Riders who use the Anacortes-San Juan route agree. They faced cancellations Wednesday due to staffing shortages.

“State ferries face two big challenges. One of them is sort of short and medium-term, and that is due to staffing — there’s a worldwide shortage. The next issue is vessels. There are only 21 vessels in the fleet,” said WSF spokesperson Ian Sterling.

Officials say staffing is easier to address, and that they are working on getting new vessels.

“So new boats, yeah, we need them. We’re authorized to build five new ones; we need to find a shipbuilder. We haven’t been able to come to terms with a price that’s good for taxpayers, yet once we find that we will get to building, and sometime in the next five years you’ll see a new boat come on the line,” said Sterling.

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