Like many other transportation providers, BC Ferries is anticipating that a combination of issues may result in unplanned service disruptions on all routes, and particularly on inter-island routes, over the coming months.
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.
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.
BC Ferries' goal is to avoid service disruptions wherever it can; to communicate service disruptions as soon as they become known; and to look for ways to minimize the impact these disruptions have on customers through the use of water taxis or other contracted marine service providers, where these services exist and are available.
BC Ferries understands the importance of providing reliable ferry service, especially for ferry dependent communities and customers who use the ferry system to get to work, school, medical appointments, or to visit family and friends. BC Ferries will do its utmost to avoid and minimize disruption to service, even when faced with a combination of factors. While a route may operate on a modified schedule, no route is expected to be suspended completely.
BC Ferries thanks its customers for continuing to support the ferry system under these more trying times. The company acknowledges and thanks its employees for their willingness to work extra hours and move between positions to ensure the least number of sailings possible are affected.