Friday, November 18, 2022

Workforce development key to ferry service restoration

By Justin Fujioka

To address our ferry crewing situation, we must focus on workforce development. That includes hiring new employees, training existing ones and making the maritime industry attractive to the next generation as we look ahead to long-term stability.

These 16 new deck employees, seen here with a few of their trainers, completed orientation and training
at the Seattle Maritime Academy on Nov. 2.

While it remains important to continue hiring new crewmembers, our biggest short-term constraint continues to be a lack of licensed deck officers (captains and mates), who require significant training time.

These 14 new terminal employees began working for us on Nov. 8 after finishing orientation and training.

Earlier this year, we created two new programs that encourage our current employees to take the necessary courses and exams to obtain a mates’ credential. We expect more than 40 to graduate these programs between April 2023 and April 2024, which is great for future system stability. We’re seeking to make these programs permanent.

Twelve of our able-bodied sailors recently completed mate training at our local
Maritime Institute of Technology and Graduate Studies.

Our latest Service Restoration Plan (PDF 794KB) Progress Report (PDF 631KB) shows that we’re now on track to confidently restore full service on our Edmonds/Kingston route early next year. Around the same time, we expect to begin trialing a full, three-boat schedule on our Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth run. The timing of full restoration on our Seattle/Bremerton and Port Townsend/Coupeville routes is dependent on the number of new mates who complete training in April 2023. We do not anticipate being able to restore Sidney, British Columbia service any sooner than summer 2023.

Sea Potential program students along with their chaperones and Relief Chie Mate Brett Wheeler
aboard the Walla Walla.

Looking far down the road, we must be sure that we will be able to sustain service for many years to come once we are fully restored. We are already looking for potential future crewmembers to fill this void.

For the second time this year, we hosted seven BIPOC (Black, Indigenous People of Color) youth aboard one of our ferries in early November. The middle schoolers, part of the Sea Potential program that helps attract diverse students to maritime jobs, toured the wheelhouse and engine room of Walla Walla.