Friday, March 25, 2022

Refit work for Northern Sea Wolf, staffing challenges for the summer among BC Ferries notes


The Northern Sea Wolf will be out of service starting April 4th
(image from BC Ferries)

A pair of items of note for those who use BC Ferries on the North and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii, with one of the vessels of the fleet for the Central Coast set for a refit in the weeks ahead.

A Service Notice from earlier this week from BC Ferries outlines the down time for the Northern Sea Wolf which will be removed from Service from April 4th to May 18th for its regulatory refit.

BC Ferries notes of plans for Tug and Barge and Water taxi options for travellers during that period.

The full statement along with the schedule is available for review here.

Today the Ferry Corporation provided a heads up for summer travellers noting that ongoing crewing challenges could make for changing schedules through the peak travel period for BC Ferries.

From their notes today, the ferry service notes of the world wide recruitment problems facing transportation providers.

BC Ferries is not alone in facing recruitment challenges. The states of Washington and Alaska, along with New Zealand and interior ferries here in B.C. have announced the impact crew shortages are having on sailings and the level of service they can provide. 

Higher than expected retirements in key shipboard positions, the impact of vaccination policies and difficulties recruiting international candidates due to COVID-19, as well as the 25-year global shortage of professional mariners are expected to pose ongoing challenges to hiring sufficient employees for what is expected to be a busier than usual peak summer season.

Adding to crewing challenges are changing travel patterns coming out of the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The spring and fall have become busier as people seek to travel following two years of restrictions while avoiding the traditional peak summer season. The flow of travellers off Vancouver Island in slow travel periods is also an emerging trend. 

 Over the years, BC Ferries has built up robust systems to mitigate the shortage of mariners, including 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. Despite these mitigations, many industries are facing very significant shifts in the employment market.

As to how they are approaching the issue and what could come this summer BC Ferries noted the following:

BC Ferries is taking every step to minimize any impact to the travelling public. Some potential service interruptions may be predictable and mitigated by changing sailing times. However, isolated sailing cancellations may be experienced due to factors like crew illness. 

BC Ferries’ goal is to avoid service disruptions wherever it can; to communicate service disruptions as soon as they become known; and to minimize the impact these disruptions have on the travelling public. Customers are encouraged to finalize travel plans on bookable routes by booking ahead.

The full overview of the uncertainty for the summer is available here along with more tips for travellers on how to avoid sailing waits.

More notes on Marine transportation themes can be found from our archive page.

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