BC Ferries warns labor shortages could impact sailing schedule through summer

(Queen of Alberni/BC Ferries)

As crew shortages plague BC Ferries, the organization is now warning customers to be prepared for further delays and altered sailing times during the peak summer season.

Hiring challenges are fueled by vaccination policies, difficulties recruiting international candidates due to COVID-19 and shortages of professional seafarers, according to BC Ferries.

But the organization is not alone, noting that other ferry services inside British Columbia and the states of Washington and Alaska are also facing similar issues.

Earlier this month, the City of Sidney said the Sidney-Anacortes ferry route would not work this spring due to a crew shortage, and service is unlikely to be restored for the summer.

Currently, BC Ferries is bracing for more traffic than usual as COVID-19 restrictions ease and the weather warms as travelers are eager to explore the province.

To avoid sailing waits, customers are encouraged to book ahead, travel at less busy times and as a foot passenger, arrive early and “know before you go” – by checking BCFerries.com to view the status of routes.

BC Ferries says it is working to minimize any impact on the traveling public, implementing additional initiatives including investment in internal training and a major recruitment drive through job fairs and WorkBC.

SEE ALSO: BC Ferries continues to change schedules through June due to staff shortages

According to the organization, these tactics made it possible to fill the 600 positions needed for the summer. It says some potential service disruptions can be “predictable” and “mitigate” by changing sailing times.

“However, isolated sailing cancellations may occur due to factors such as crew illness,” he said.

“BC Ferries’ goal is to avoid service disruptions wherever possible, to communicate service disruptions as soon as they are known and to minimize the impact of such disruptions on the traveling public.

Over the years, BC Ferries says it has put in place “robust systems” to ease the shortage of seafarers, including staffing pools, cross-employment and overtime pay for employees who fill in the gaps.

“Despite these mitigations, many industries are facing very significant changes in the job market,” he added.