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Staff absenteeism has doubled at BC Ferries, impacting sailings and cancellations

COVID-19, injury and family emergencies are all to blame
To combat the shortages, BC Ferries is limiting onboard services, backfilling positions and having employees work overtime. The Island K’ulut’a (BC Ferries photo)

As B.C. Ferries plan to operate at maximum capacity this B.C. Day long weekend, staff absenteeism has nearly doubled, according to the company.

This weekend, 32 sailings a day are scheduled between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m on the busiest route from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen. The Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay route has 24 sailings scheduled on three ships. Two vessels will deliver up to 16 sailings on the Tsawwassen to Duke Point (Nanaimo) route.

An additional ferry will increase sailings between Horseshoe Bay and the Sunshine Coast (Langdale) route from Thursday to Monday. A second ferry will offer four additional sailings from Friday to Sunday between Tsawwassen and the Southern Gulf Islands.

Absenteeism is currently at 11 per cent, much higher than the normal six per cent, executive director Deborah Marshall confirmed to Black Press Media.

The recent spike in COVID-19 is the main culprit of the absenteeism, Marshall said, but injury and family emergencies are all to blame.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that we are not having to suspend any of our services,” Marshall said. This includes having employees work overtime, limiting onboard services and backfilling positions.

Last Saturday, the company cancelled 14 sailings, impacting several ferry terminals. This past week, it cancelled four sailings on the Skeena Queen due to crew availability.

“Cancelling sailings is certainly the last resort for us. It’s only triggered after we have exhausted all options,” Marshall said.

Despite the recent news, Marshall said that only around one per cent of sailings have been cancelled.

Last month to combat staff shortages, BC Ferries suspended its mandatory vaccination policy and contacted 150 employees that were on leave without pay.

Furthermore, BC Ferries has offered hiring and referral bonuses to its staff, paying out around $45,000 in bonuses so far.

“If you’re a BC Ferries employee, and you know somebody in the industry, and you can help recruit them, we’re giving our employees incentive payments,” she said.

Marshall recommends travellers check the BC Ferries website and Twitter before departure, and adhere to all COVID-19 guidelines to stay safe.

For complete schedule information, tips, current conditions and bookings, visit