Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Ongoing march of COVID, vaccine mandates, severe weather among areas set to make for staffing concerns for BC Ferries

The Northern Expedition heading towards its berth at the
Prince Rupert Ferry Terminal at Fairview

BC Ferries provided a heads up for its customers on Monday that sometime over the next few months, you are likely to experience a cancelled sailing and  find a few challenges for the many routes of the FerryService North and South.

The correspondence for customers outlined the range of issues that are shaping up to make for a Perfect Storm of sorts when it comes to staffing the vessels of the marine transportation provider in British Columbia.

There is no single factor driving service interruptions. It is a combination including the Omicron variant's potential to impact employee wellness, regular cold and flu season, severe winter storms, vaccination policies that have reduced crew availability and the global shortage of professional mariners making it difficult to hire 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. 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.

Towards addressing some of the staffing issues, BC Ferries outlined some of the programs that they have in place to try to work around the shortages when the arise.

To mitigate this risk, BC Ferries relies on staffing pools with crew held in reserve, cross-training employees so they can be redeployed from one location to another as required, and overtime pay for employees who cover gaps. In the event these mitigations are not successful, the company modifies service.

Some of those measures were put into action earlier this month when it came to a cancelled sailing over the New Years period for the Northern Sea Wolf Service between Port Hardy and the Central Coast.

The full update on the current staffing situation can be reviewed here.

More notes on BC Ferries Service in and out of Prince Rupert can be explored here.

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