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News >  Pacific NW

Washington ferries to slash service due to staffing issues

UPDATED: Thu., Oct. 14, 2021

A ferry docks at Shaw Island in August before traveling to Orcas Island. Washington State Ferries announced Friday that seven of its 10 routes are experiencing delays.  (Erika Schultz/Seattle Times)
A ferry docks at Shaw Island in August before traveling to Orcas Island. Washington State Ferries announced Friday that seven of its 10 routes are experiencing delays. (Erika Schultz/Seattle Times)
Associated Press

SEATTLE — Washington State Ferries is slashing its scheduled service starting this weekend because of chronic staff shortages that have impacted the boat service, a condition that some workers who haven’t been vaccinated warned will only get worse.

In a written statement, the ferry service said the cutbacks, which will begin this weekend and are expected to be temporary, are being implemented to “provide more predictable and reliable travel,” KOMO-TV reported.

Last Friday, upwards of 150 ferry sailings were canceled and that number rose to roughly 170 on Saturday. With the state’s vaccine mandate taking effect this Monday, about 200 Washington ferry employees have yet to submit proof of their COVID-19 vaccination.

In addition to staffing challenges, the ferry agency said other factors that led to the service reductions include an aging workforce; COVID-19 cases; and quarantines imposed by those who come into contact with a possibly infected person.

“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve worked hard to maintain reliable service, completing the vast majority of sailings,” Patty Rubstello, head of Washington Ferries, said in the statement. “However, to better reflect the service we can currently provide and to minimize last-minute cancelations due to a lack of crew, we made this difficult decision to adjust our schedules.”

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