Staffing shortages disrupts ferry service near Anacortes

Staffing shortages at Washington State Ferries resulted in 51 canceled sailings on the Anacortes/San Juan Islands route between Sept. 9 and Sept. 13.

A lack of Coast Guard-documented crew meant several ferries had to be taken out of service multiple times, disrupting travel between Anacortes and the San Juan Islands, and travel among the islands, the Skagit Valley Herald reported.

Ferries spokesperson Dana Warr said dozens of crew members were out because of COVID-19 diagnoses, quarantining and getting vaccinations. Gov. Jay Inslee has ordered all state employees, including ferry workers, to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18.

State Ferries does not have an estimate of the number of workers who have been fully vaccinated. Warr said some employees have not yet submitted proof of vaccination, and have until Sept. 24 to do so.

He said about 600 of the ferry system’s roughly 1,800 employees have submitted vaccine verification.

He did not immediately have an estimate of the number of ferry workers who had requested an exemption to the vaccine mandate.

State Ferries has been dealing with crew shortages for months, well before the vaccine mandate was announced, leading to travel delays and disruptions. One challenge has been training new employees during COVID-19 lockdowns.

RELATED: Vaccine rule comes as Washington State Ferries face staffing crunch

RELATED: Washington ferry fares to increase starting Oct. 1

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