BC Ferries sees cancellations due to staff shortages and warns of more

BC Ferries sees cancellations due to staff shortages and warns of more

Ferry sailings can be disrupted in winter due to storms, but this year is expected to be especially challenging due to serious staffing issues at BC Ferries.

“Some friends of mine went off for the day and come back and all of a sudden, they can’t get back on the Island,” a ferry customer from Salt Spring Island told CHEK News.

“I empathize with the ferry workers, they’re doing everything they can possibly do,” another man waiting for the ferry on Monday said. “I don’t think any of them want to be ill. Who wants to be sick?”

Four sailings on the Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay run had to be cancelled over the weekend due to staff shortages and BC Ferries says more service modifications are likely.

“We do know the Omicron variant has the potential to impact our employee wellness,” says BC Ferries corporate communications manager Astrid Chang. “We’re also in the middle of regular cold and flu season, so we’re keeping an eye on that.”

And that’s not the only issue. There’s also a global shortage of professional mariners, which is why BC Ferries started warning customers last week that there could be cancellations over the next few months.

“We are anticipating a combination of these factors could lead to some service challenges or interruptions,” Changs says. “There’s no one single factor that is driving the potential for some sailing modifications.”

BC Ferries has previously said a vaccine mandate required by the federal government has led to a staff shortage. A vaccine policy was issued by BC Ferries to all employees back on Nov. 5, requiring everyone including contractors who work onboard vessels are required to be fully vaccinated by Feb. 28.

For ferry travellers, it’s a serious concern.

“I just had imaging done for cancer I had last year and it took five extra months to get in there because of COVID already and then if the ferry was cancelled, I don’t know what I would have done,” a Salt Spring Island resident told CHEK News. “It’s scary for people who live on Islands and have no other means of getting off.”

If you are travelling, be sure to check the BC Ferries website for cancellations or delays before going to the terminal.

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