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For Immediate Release
22-010
March 25, 2022

Crewing challenges expected for peak summer season


VICTORIA –As experienced throughout the fall and winter of 2021/22, the impact of crew shortages at BC Ferries is expected to continue through the spring and into summer, affecting sailing times and plans to provide additional service on some routes.

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.

Attraction and retention of staff across all functions has become more challenging but is felt most acutely in the licensed positions on the vessels. BC Ferries is advancing several additional initiatives to address these challenges, including:
  • Longstanding annual investment of approximately $23 million a year on internal development and training
  • Undertaking a significant recruitment push including presence at multiple career fairs
  • Collaborating with agencies like WorkBC and others to attract qualified candidates
  • Reaching out to retired employees to bring them back for the short term

To date, these tactics have supported the filling of 600 positions required for the summer.

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.

BC Ferries thanks its customers, and in particular its staff, for continuing to support the ferry system as it builds back to pre-pandemic operations and gratefully acknowledges employees for their willingness to work extra hours and move between positions to ensure the least number of sailings possible are affected.

For employment opportunities, visit https://www.bcferries.com/our-company/bc-ferries-jobs

Avoid sailing waits with these travel tips:
 
  • Book in advance – Book early to secure a spot on the sailing time of your choice. With Saver fares, travel for less by sailing at off peak times between Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island and Metro Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast. Visit https://www.bcferries.com/newfares.
 
  • Travel at less busy times – Sailing waits are common during popular travel periods. If reservations are sold out, the best option to avoid sailing waits is to travel during less busy times. These are typically mid-week days and early morning or late evening sailings.
 
  • Travel as a foot passenger – Leave the car at home. If possible, choose public transit or arrange to be dropped off at the terminal. Foot passengers can now make bookings on the Metro Vancouver – Vancouver Island routes. 
     
  • Arrive early – Customers with an advanced booking should plan to arrive at the terminal 45-60 minutes before their scheduled departure. Walk-on passengers should arrive 45 minutes before their anticipated sailing.
     
  • Know before you go – For the most up-to-date sailing information, visit BC Ferries’ website or follow @BCFerries on Twitter. To view the status of all routes at a glance, visit https://www.bcferries.com/routes-at-glance.

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Media Contact:
BC Ferries, Communications
Victoria: (250) 978-1267

Customer Contact:
Victoria: (250) 410-1465
Toll-free: 1-888-BCFERRY (1-888-223-3779)

Note to newsrooms: For urgent media inquiries off-hours, call our emergency line at (250) 516-7211.
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