SEATTLE — Washington State Ferries is slashing its scheduled service starting this weekend because of chronic staff shortages that have impacted the boat service, a condition that some workers who haven’t been vaccinated warned will only get worse.
The ferry service said online that the cutbacks, which will begin Saturday, are expected to be temporary and are being implemented to “provide more predictable and reliable travel.”
The Port Townsend-Coupeville route will continue with one-boat service with vehicle reservations as normal for this time of year, the ferry system said.
Other changes are:
• Seattle-Bainbridge, Edmonds/Kingston and Mukilteo/Clinton: One-boat service instead of two.
• Fauntleroy-Vashon/Southworth: Two-boat schedule instead of three.
• Anacortes-San Juan Islands: Three-boat schedule instead of four with temporary suspension of vehicle reservations.
• Seattle-Bremerton: Continued reduced one-boat service instead of two.
• Point Defiance-Tahlequah: Continued one-boat service as normal.
Last Friday, upwards of 150 ferry sailings were canceled, and that number rose to roughly 170 on Saturday.
With the state’s vaccine mandate taking effect this Monday, about 200 Washington ferry employees have yet to submit proof of their COVID-19 vaccination.
In addition to staffing challenges, the ferry agency said other factors that led to the service reductions include an aging workforce; COVID-19 cases; and quarantines imposed by those who come into contact with a possibly infected person.
“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve worked hard to maintain reliable service, completing the vast majority of sailings,” Patty Rubstello, head of Washington Ferries, said in the statement. “However, to better reflect the service we can currently provide and to minimize last-minute cancelations due to a lack of crew, we made this difficult decision to adjust our schedules.”