The Kennewick pulls into the Port Townsend dock Wednesday afternoon to wait for cars and walk-on passengers. The Port Townsend/Coupeville ferry route will continue to have one-boat service for the foreseeable future. (Zach Jablonski/Peninsula Daily News)

The Kennewick pulls into the Port Townsend dock Wednesday afternoon to wait for cars and walk-on passengers. The Port Townsend/Coupeville ferry route will continue to have one-boat service for the foreseeable future. (Zach Jablonski/Peninsula Daily News)

One-boat service to remain in place for Port Townsend-Coupeville ferry route

Hurdles: Staffing, vessels’ availability

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend/Coupeville ferry route will continue with only one-boat service for the foreseeable future, due to staffing and vessel constraints, Washington State Ferries has announced.

Officials with the state ferry system had planned to begin the summer schedule of two-boat daily sailings between Port Townsend and Whidbey Island this coming Sunday, but low staffing levels and a lack of available vessels has prompted the change to the continuation of the one-boat schedule as well as impacts to other routes, said John Vezina, government relations director.

“We have had to cancel several sailings over the last couple of weeks due to two constraints – vessel and crewing availability,” Vezina said in an email to the Jefferson County Ferry Advisory Committee on Wednesday morning.

“This was highlighted yesterday when we had to make the difficult decision not to add a second vessel to the Port Townsend/Coupeville route this weekend, as we’d planned, due to a lack of available crewing.

“Knowing we can’t consistently crew our current schedule, augmenting service would simply have led to additional cancelled sailings across the system, which would have been indefensible when we knew that impact in advance.”

Some of the service issues stem from lack of available vessels, as WSF has only 15 vessels available out of the 18 needed to run all routes at normal peak schedule.

A fire on the Wenatchee — one of the three largest ferries — in April removed the vessel from service for several months for repairs, Vezina said in a prepared brief.

In addition to the Wenatchee, Vigor, one of WSF’s major contractors, lost one of its two drydocks, causing further delays to state ferries being worked on in a shipyard.

The state has limited facilities with the capacity to work on ferries, Vezina added.

While the Port Townsend/Coupeville route is limited to one vessel, the Bremerton/Seattle, Bainbridge/Seattle, Mukilteo/Clinton and Anacortes/San Juan Islands routes are constrained to smaller vessels than usual due to the vessel availability, Vezina said.

The Kingston/Edmonds ferry route will be down 14 car spaces starting next week, as the Puyallup will be going into repairs for a couple of weeks, and the slightly smaller Spokane will be running the route instead, he said.

Vezina said several factors contributed to the system’s shortage of trained crew members: COVID-19 impacts on training and quarantines due to contract tracing, as well as an increase in retirements during the past year, Vezina said.

The engine rooms are experiencing the greatest losses, he said. Twenty-seven people have left during the past year, and seven more will leave at the end of this month.

Officials have hired 15 people in the past year, and recent recruitments have led to another 11 hirings, eight of whom are still being trained and will be ready to work in early July, Vezina said.

Twenty-nine deck officers have retired, and 75 unlicensed deck crew members have left during the past two years, he added.

Only five new deck officers and 13 licenced crew mates have been hired. Replacement unlicensed deck crew members have been hired, but due to delays caused by training class size restraints in spring due to COVID-19, officials are still catching up on training the entry-level unlicensed crew mates for the peak season, Vezina said.

Unlicensed crew are easier to hire than the licensed crew for the deck and engine teams, as WSF competes with other maritime industry employers for the higher-qualified staff members, Vezina said.

“We are working with our labor partners and crews to reinforce the importance of being able to fully staff our sailings and with our Human Resources and Training Departments to hire and train new employees,” said Vezina’s email.

“Like most of the country, there are lingering COVID impacts on our service – impacts we’re working diligently to address.”

_______

Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at zjablonski@peninsuladailynews.com.

More in News

Quilcene schools, Clallam Bay fire district measures passing

Voters in Jefferson and Clallam counties appear to have passed measures for… Continue reading

Tribe seeking funds for hotel

Plans still in works for downtown Port Angeles

Clallam County eyes second set of lodging tax applications

Increase more than doubles support from 2023

Olympic Medical Center reports operating losses

Hospital audit shows $28 million shortfall

Jefferson County joins opioid settlement

Deal with Johnson & Johnson to bring more than $200,000

Ballots due today for elections in Clallam, Jefferson counties

It’s Election Day for voters in Quilcene and Clallam… Continue reading

Jefferson PUD has clean audit for 2022

Jefferson County Public Utility District #1 has received a… Continue reading

Jefferson Transit opens survey on climate action plan

Jefferson Transit Authority will conduct a survey through June… Continue reading

Three volunteers sought for Clallam County Disability Board

The Clallam County Disability Board is seeking volunteers to… Continue reading

Pictured, from left, are Mary Kelso, Jane Marks, Barbara Silva and Linda Cooper.
School donation

The Port Angeles Garden Club donated $800 to the Crescent School in… Continue reading

Clayton Hergert, 2, along with is mother, Mandy Hergert of Port Angeles, sit at the bow of a U.S. Coast Guard response boat on display during Saturday’s Healthy Kids Day at the Port Angeles YMCA. The event, hosted by all three Olympic Peninsula YMCA branches, featured children’s activities designed to promote a healthy lifestyle and a love for physical activity. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Captain on deck

Clayton Hergert, 2, along with is mother, Mandy Hergert of Port Angeles,… Continue reading

Clallam County Fire District 3 commissioners agreed on April 2 to seek a real estate market analysis for Lost Mountain Station 36 after multiple attempts to seek volunteers to keep the station open. They’ll consider selling it and using funds for emergency supplies in the area, and offsetting construction costs for a new Carlsborg fire station. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)
Fire District to seek market analysis for station

Proceeds could help build new building in Carlsborg