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WSF has an eventful week after the shootings


Washington State Ferries is still working through the consequences of the recent layoffs of 121 unvaccinated employees.

In the San Juans, runners suffered long wait times and overload due to a reduced alternate schedule.

“The situation is fluid, and yet the WSF has sent out yet another ‘alternative service’ bulletin that offers no hope of improving service,” said San Juan County Advisory Committee chairman Jim Corenman. .

WSF communications director Ian Sterling said that before the layoffs they were already understaffed.

According to Corenman, there is currently a shortage of ship crews, including those on the deck and in the engine room. He said that before the layoffs of unvaccinated WSF workers, this problem was already exacerbated by the pandemic, but is now critical.

“This is complicated by the number of different skills and accreditations required to operate the vessels,” he said. “WSF’s goal then is to restore the service they can while continuing to hire and train. WSF does not yet know what this means in terms of when service can be improved or on which roads, but it will become clearer in the coming days.

The WSF hoped to open the galleys by the end of the summer. Now that it’s almost November, a chance to open galleys soon is still out of sight.

The galleys are owned by private companies separate from WSF, Sterling said. These companies are also struggling to find employees.

“I just don’t know where all the workers have gone…” Sterling stopped with a sigh.

However, Corenman described the staff shortages as a short-term problem. The long-term problem facing WSF today is a fleet that cannot realistically deliver the level of service it wants. The WSF has recently grown from 24 ships to 21 ships.

“Ships are aging without the maintenance required to keep them reliable, and the program for building new ships is both underfunded and on the decline,” said Corenman.

Sterling added: “We won’t have a new one built and completed for at least three years.”

When asked if the ships that were pulled from the program due to personnel issues will return this year, Sterling’s response was, “Yes, of course. As soon as we have staff, we will get the boats back on the road. And this is already happening.

Sterling does not know how long it will take to have enough staff to get the boats back to their normal course. For now, the San Juans will continue with an alternate three-boat program.

Sterling and the rest of the WSF recognize the importance of ferry schedules to the San Juan and Vashon Islands, as there is no other way to leave or arrive unless you take a plane. They worked hard to get things back on track, he said.

“The people who have been making the boats come and go since day one of the pandemic, you know, as frontline workers, that’s, that’s a pride for them,” Sterling said. “So they try to do all the sailing they can. “

Contrary to Sterling’s optimism, Corenman said ferry updates constantly fluctuate.

“Information that is good today may be different tomorrow,” he said.


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