BC Ferries warns of ‘unplanned service disruptions’ in coming months due to Omicron, weather, vaccine mandates

BC Ferries warns of 'unplanned service disruptions' in coming months due to Omicron, weather, vaccine mandates
File photo.

BC Ferries is warning passengers that a combination of issues including the Omicron variant, winter storms, vaccination policies and a global shortage of qualified mariners will likely lead to “unplanned service disruptions” on all routes — especially those between Vancouver Island ports.

In a statement Monday, BC Ferries says it’s a perfect storm of issues leading to the anticipated disruptions. There ahve already been some disruptions on major routes like Swartz-Bay Tsawwassen due to staffing shortages, the most recent of which was caused by a blast of winter weather.

Other sailings, like the ferry to and from Gabriola Island, have previously been impacted because of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate causing a worker shortage.

Crewing the vessels has also become difficult due to what BC Ferries is calling a “global shortage” of professional mariners making it hard to find replacement staff.

“Crewing is a complex, logistical task that considers the individual’s qualifications and the number of skilled mariners required for the various roles onboard each vessel, as well as where they live and work,” the company said.

“Regulations require these positions to be filled with the appropriate crew, or the vessel  cannot sail. Even a small number of crew that are unavailable to sail can have a significant impact on service if replacements are challenging to find.”

BC Ferries says its cross-trains employees and uses crew members held in reserve to redeploy as required, but if there’s still not enough people to cover a sailing, service is affected.

The company said it will notify passengers as soon as it can when disruptions become apparent, and minimize impact on customers through the use of water taxis or other contracted services where they’re available.

“BC Ferries understands the importance of providing reliable ferry service, especially for ferry dependent communities and customers who use the ferry system to get to work, school, medical appointments, or to visit family and friends,” it said.

“BC Ferries will do its utmost to avoid and minimize disruption to service, even when faced with a combination of factors. While a route may operate on a  modified schedule, no route is expected to be suspended completely.”

Passengers are encouraged to check BC Ferries’ website for the most up-to-date information on sailings and cancellations.


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