Hyak

The ferry Hyak in August 2017.

ANACORTES — Staffing shortages at Washington State Ferries resulted in 51 canceled sailings on the Anacortes/San Juan Islands route between Sept. 9 and Sept. 13.

A lack of Coast Guard-documented crew meant several ferries had to be taken out of service multiple times, disrupting travel between Anacortes and the San Juan Islands, and travel among the islands.

There were 14 canceled sailings Sept. 10, 17 on Sept. 11, and 10 on Sept. 12.

Ferries spokesperson Dana Warr said dozens of crew members were out because of COVID-19 diagnoses, quarantining and getting vaccinations.

Gov. Jay Inslee has ordered all state employees, including ferry workers, to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18.

State Ferries does not have an estimate of the number of workers who have been fully vaccinated. Warr said some employees have not yet submitted proof of vaccination, and have until Sept. 24 to do so.

He said about 600 of the ferry system’s roughly 1,800 employees have submitted vaccine verification.

“I feel confident that more people will validate (their vaccinations), but we also have to consider any medical and religious waivers,” Warr said.

He did not immediately have an estimate of the number of ferry workers who had requested an exemption to the governor’s vaccine mandate.

Some media outlets have reported the possibility of a “sickout” in response to the vaccine requirement.

Warr said State Ferries is aware of the rumors, and that there are repercussions for those found to have falsely reported being sick.

State Ferries has been dealing with crew shortages for months, well before the vaccine mandate was announced, leading to travel delays and disruptions. One challenge has been training new employees during COVID-19 lockdowns.

Warr said this year the ferry system has hired 74 new deck employees, 60 new terminal employees, and 23 new engine room employees. Another four people are finishing their training, he said.

— Anacortes American reporter Briana Alzola contributed to this report

— Reporter Jacqueline Allison: jallison@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2145, Twitter: @Jacqueline_SVH

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