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BC Ferries aims to recruit more than 100 employees amid staff shortages

Vancouver Island is seeing an increase in tourists as many British Columbians head there to escape the wildfire smoke.
BC Ferries had to cancel two sailings of the Queen of New Westminster on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021, because of a shortage of crew members.

BC Ferries is on the hunt for more than 100 new employees amid a global shortage of qualified mariners, says the organization’s president and chief executive.

The corporation had to cancel two sailings of the Queen of New Westminster on Wednesday because of a shortage of crew members. On Friday, a round-trip sailing between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen on the same ferry was also cancelled because of a staffing problem. In that case, the Coastal Celebration was used to replace the Queen of New Westminster.

BC Ferries president Mark Collins said in a statement Thursday that the two sailings were cancelled Wednesday evening due to unavailability of three ship’s officers because of non-COVID related illness. All passengers were accommodated on alternate sailings, he said.

Typically, BC Ferries has extra crew members on hand to fill in for absent crew members so service levels can be maintained, he said.

“BC Ferries moves crew to different locations as required from this pool of spare staff onshore,” he said.

But on Wednesday, “the three individuals were at the same location, making it challenging to find enough replacements on short notice.”

The organization is affected by a world-wide shortage of mariners, said Collins, adding the corporation is actively recruiting for about 60 officer positions and 50 other key positions to ensure it has enough crew members in the event of illness or other absences.

“Unfortunately, the global shortage means qualified mariners are very difficult to find.”

Traffic on BC Ferries has ramped up in recent weeks as pandemic restrictions have been relaxed. Vessels are now allowed to operate at full capacity after being limited for months to allow for social distancing.

Vancouver Island is extra-busy as a tourist destination because some visitors are heading to the Island to escape wildfires and smoke in the Interior.

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