British Columbia’s ferry service is warning that a brewing crew shortage could lead to service interruptions and “isolated sailing cancellations” during the busy summer season.
BC Ferries says it is facing a labour shortage due to “higher than expected retirements in key shipboard positions,” the effects of vaccine mandates and challenges recruiting internationally due to COVID-19.
Those problems have stacked on top of a “25-year global shortage of professional mariners,” creating a situation where the company and other ferry services, including those in Washington state, Alaska and New Zealand, are short staffed, BC Ferries said in a media release Friday.
“Attraction and retention of staff across all functions has become more challenging but is felt most acutely in the licensed positions on the vessels,” it added.
The company is warning that the staffing crunch comes while British Columbians are increasingly choosing to travel during the spring and fall in a bid to avoid the busy summer.
BC Ferries said it has tried to respond to the shortage by cross training employees, bringing on reserve staff and providing overtime for staff who cover gaps.
It said it has also undertaken a major recruitment push and is reaching out to retired employees to see if they can come back short-term, which has resulted in filling about 600 positions for the summer.
But tight staffing means there could still be cancellations in situations such as crew calling in sick.
“BC Ferries’ goal is to avoid service disruptions wherever it can; to communicate service disruptions as soon as they become known; and to minimize the impact these disruptions have on the travelling public,” it said.
“Customers are encouraged to finalize travel plans on bookable routes by booking ahead.”