The WA ferry system is experiencing an unprecedented staff shortage

ByShannon J. Cortes

Apr 12, 2022

SEATTLE (AP) — Washington State Ferries officials acknowledge the system is understaffed and needs dozens of new hires.

A March report from the ferry system says staffing shortages are unprecedented in the system’s 70-year history, KING-TV reported.

“It’s not good, quite honestly. We don’t have enough people to navigate the ships right now,” Washington State Ferry spokesman Ian Sterling said Monday. “We need to hire, train and get people out on the water.”

Delays and cancellations have been typical during the pandemic. Sterling said a staffing shortage was expected even before the pandemic started.

The Washington State Ferry system competes with for-profit companies, particularly for engine room crews, but the system has hired “well over a hundred people in the last six months,” a- he declared.

The Seattle Maritime Academy in Seattle and the ferry system hold open houses at the academy on Tuesdays to solicit interest in the profession.

Dale Bateman, who runs the Academy, said a one-year program at the Academy costs about $10,000 and a graduate can earn between $70,000 and $80,000 a year to start.

In 2021, Washington State Ferries made approximately 22,000 fewer crossings than in 2019.

Ship availability has recovered but remains at risk due to an aging fleet, according to the report. The ferry system had 24 ships five years ago, but now has 21.