The impact of crew shortages at BC Ferries is expected to continue through the spring and into what is expected to be a busy summer for travel.
Vaccine policies, higher than expected retirements and difficulty recruiting internationally because of the pandemic have all contributed to BC Ferries’ staffing challenges, according to a media release by the company.
Emerging changes in travel patterns have made keeping ships staffed even more difficult. 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, according to BC Ferries.
The shortage is being felt most acutely in licensed positions — BC Ferries said it is working on several initiatives, 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.
BC Ferries said the initiatives resulted in 600 filled positions so far, but still expects isolated sailing cancellations to occur due to factors such as crew illness.
The company recommends customers do the following to avoid sailing waits:
-Book in advance;
-Travel during less busy times — typically mid-week days and early morning or late evening sailings;
-Travel as a foot passenger;
-Arrive 45-60 minutes early even if you have a reservation.