Larger Yakima Added to San Juan Ferries Route, but Vessel, Crew Shortage Shortens Schedules
Posted June 12, 2021 at 5:30 am by Hayley Day
By Patty Rubstello, Assistant Secretary, Washington State Department of Transportation Ferries Division
The 144-vehicle capacity Yakima replaced the 124-vehicle capacity Cathlamet on the Anacortes and San Juan Islands route Friday, June 11.
Systemwide, we’re working to build back service to pre-pandemic levels.
However, this will continue to be a gradual process as we deal with a shortage of working vessels following April’s fire aboard Wenatchee and long overdue preservation needs on many of our aging ferries.
We’re still operating a one-boat service on our Port Townsend and Coupeville route, at least through June 27, and will operate smaller vessels than normal on three more runs Seattle/Bainbridge, Mukilteo/Clinton and Anacortes/San Juan Islands through the summer.
With reduced vessel capacities on multiple routes, be prepared for the possibility of long waits if coming aboard by vehicle, especially during peak travel times.
If walking on, be aware that we will enforce reduced occupancy in terminals and on sailings to comply with the state’s directive on physical distance standards for public transportation.
In addition to vessel availability challenges, we’re also experiencing crewing issues related to the pandemic.
While many of our employees have been vaccinated, we’re still seeing occasional COVID cases among vessel crews.
Following health department guidelines, anyone in contact with them must quarantine, shrinking our pool of available crewmembers, particularly those who work in the confined quarters of our vessel engine rooms. We also have employees out for a day or two to receive or deal with side effects from the vaccine.
Knowing we would face these constraints, we worked to hire additional engine room crew this spring. Unfortunately, our first hiring event only yielded two new oilers.
We just completed a second round of interviews and hope to bring on eight more oilers by mid-June. We’re always looking for new employees, not just for our fleet. If you’re interested in working for us or know someone who may be, check out our employment page.
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