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BC Ferries expects crew challenges to affect summer season

BC Ferries vessels are seen at Tsawwassen ferry terminal. (Murray Titus) BC Ferries vessels are seen at Tsawwassen ferry terminal. (Murray Titus)
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BC Ferries is warning travellers that it expects crew shortages to continue to affect sailing times through the peak summer season.

"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," the company said in a statement Friday.

BC Ferries has had to make multiple service changes during the fall and winter because of crew shortages, and the ferry company says it's not alone in its struggles, noting that ferry services in Washington State, Alaska and New Zealand have also been affected by crew shortages.

The company says it has "robust systems" in place to mitigate the effects of staffing issues, including staffing pools with crew held in reserve, cross-training to facilitate redeployment of crew members as needed, and overtime pay for employees who cover gaps.

"Despite these mitigations, many industries are facing very significant shifts in the employment market," BC Ferries said. "Attraction and retention of staff across all functions has become more challenging but is felt most acutely in the licensed positions on the vessels."

The company says it has launched several initiatives to address the hiring and retention issues, including annual investments in internal development and training, making "a significant recruitment push," collaborating with agencies like WorkBC on attracting qualified candidates, and "reaching out to retired employees to bring them back for the short term."

These efforts have filled approximately 600 positions required for the summer, but BC Ferries still anticipates challenges during the busy summer season.

"BC Ferries is taking every step to minimize any impact to the travelling public," the company said. "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."

Seasonal and full-time employment opportunities with BC Ferries can be found on the company's website.  

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