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BC Ferries expects crewing challenges into summer

Crewing shortages are expected for BC Ferries sailings into the summer, affecting sailing times and plans to bring additional service to some routes.

The ferry line is citing higher than expected retirements in key shipboard positions, impacts of vaccination policies and difficulties in recruiting international candidates because of COVID-19.
BC Ferries says they expect the coming summer to have a busier than normal peak season.

“The spring and fall have become busier as people seek to travel following two years of restrictions while avoiding the traditional peak summer season,” read a statement from BC Ferries. “The flow of travellers off Vancouver Island in slow travel periods is also an emerging trend.”

The ferry line says they are not the only company feeling the staffing shortages recently. They say the states of Washington and Alaska along with New Zealand and interior B.C. ferries have felt the stress.

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Staffing pools with crews held in reserve, cross-training employees and overtime pay have also been used to prevent issues, but haven’t avoided all of them. Sailings ahead of Easter weekend were cancelled due to mechanical issues along with staffing shortages.

BC Ferries says around 600 positions have been filled recently with further investments including internal development and training, collaboration with WorkBC and bringing back retired employees for the short term.

Despite efforts, they say cancellations may still occur because of issues like crew illness and offer advice to travellers to not miss sailings. They include:

  • Booking in advance to get a spot on the sailing of your choice
  • Travelling at less busy times like weekdays and early mornings
  • Travelling on foot and by public transit
  • Arriving between 45 and 60 minutes before your sailing 
  • Staying up to date with current conditions
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