B.C. Ferry crewing challenges expected for summer season
B.C. Ferries issued a warning stating that the impact of crew shortages is expected to continue through the spring and into summer, affecting sailing times and plans to provide additional service on certain routes.
"There is a worldwide shortage of mariners. Coupled with that, we are seeing higher numbers of retirement in some of our key shipboard positions and we’ve also been having some challenges with crew illness," said B.C. Ferries Public Affairs Executive Director, Deborah Marshalls. "Rest assured, we plan to have a full summer schedule and we want to bring lots of tourists and visitors back up to the north and central coast."
B.C. Ferries is not alone in facing recruitment challenges. The states of Washington and Alaska, along with New Zealand and interior ferries in B.C. have announced the impact crew shortages are having on the services they can provide.
Additionally, the impact of vaccination policies and difficulties recruiting international candidates due to COVID-19 are expected to pose challenges for hiring enough employees for what is expected to be a busier than usual peak summer season.
“We are expecting to go back to about 2019 numbers, which would be pre-pandemic times. There is a lot of pent-up demand out there. People missed their summer vacations over the past couple of years, so we do expect them to come back and travel with B.C. Ferries around the province this summer.”
Adding to crewing challenges are changing travel patterns. It's been noted that spring and fall have become busier as people seek to travel following two years of restrictions.
B.C. Ferries continue to build systems to mitigate the shortage of mariners, including staffing pools with crew held in reserve, overtime pay for employees who cover gaps, and cross-training employees so they can be redeployed to other locations across the province.
“Sometimes for the summer, some of our staff from the lower mainland will take certain positions up in the north. It’s a very attractive position, we have some lovely ships up in the northwest. We do expect full summer service so that we can service Port Hardy-Prince Rupert , Prince Rupert-Haida Gwaii as well as the Bella Coola area,” said Marshalls.
B.C. Ferries is taking every step to minimize any impact to the traveling public. Some potential service interruptions may be predictable and mitigated by changing sailing times. B.C. Ferries’ goal is to avoid service disruptions wherever it can; and to communicate service disruptions as soon as they become known. Customers are encouraged to finalize travel plans on bookable routes by booking ahead.