Washington State Ferries partnering with Seattle Maritime Academy to address worker shortage

SEATTLE — Washington State Ferries says a worldwide shortage of mariners is to blame for long wait times for customers and reduced service on multiple ferry routes.

But now they’re working with a local academy to solve that problem.

Students at Seattle Central College’s Seattle Maritime Academy train in classrooms, aboard vessels and in state-of-the art engine room and Captain’s bridge simulators.

About one-in-four of WSF’s current engine room employees graduated from the maritime academy.

“Engine room employees are a part of ferry operations that a lot of people don’t know exist, yet they’re absolutely vital to ensure the largest ferry system in North America can safely serve the people of Washington,” said WSF Chief of Staff Nicole McIntosh. “The jobs can pay more than $60 per hour and once on board there is a clear career path.”

As 20% of workers in the local maritime industry are within five years of retiring, WSF is encouraging women, people from communities of color and other underrepresented groups to consider maritime training and careers.

“There’s huge demand for merchant mariners, not just at Washington State Ferries, but across the entire industry,” said academy Associate Dean Dale Bateman. “We offer a fast-track program to train the next generation of mariners. Students in the marine engineering technology unit can graduate and be on the water in as little as a year.”

The academy offers a 90-day paid internship at sea with the state ferry system and says tug and shipping companies are also in urgent need of their graduates.

Anyone interested in joining a WSF engine room crew is encouraged to attend one of the academy’s monthly public tours and information sessions which take place on the second Tuesday of each month.