Crew illness, global shortage of mariners blamed for cancelled BC Ferries sailings

The president and CEO of BC Ferries is blaming the cancellation of two sailings between Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland on an unfortunate coincidence and a global shortage of experienced mariners.

The provincial ferry operator cancelled a pair of sailings on the Queen of New Westminster on Wednesday evening, citing a shortage of staff. 

In a statement to CTV News Vancouver Island on Thursday, the company's president and CEO Mark Collins elaborated on the precise cause of the shortage.

"BC Ferries cancelled two sailings of the Queen of New Westminster Wednesday evening due to unavailability of three ship’s officers due to non-COVID related illness," Collins said.

Typically, in such situations, the ferry service would call on members of its pool of extra crew members, according to Collins.

"For many years, as a normal part of its business, BC Ferries has retained extra crew to mitigate the risk of loss of service due to crewing absences," he said. "In this case, the three individuals were at the same location, making it challenging to find enough replacements on short notice."

Exacerbating the problem is a global shortage of experienced mariners, Collins said.

"We are actively recruiting for approximately 60 officer and 50 other key positions to create even greater redundancy in the system," he said. "Unfortunately, the global shortage means qualified mariners are very difficult to find."

All of the passengers who had reserved space on the two cancelled sailings have now been accommodated on alternate sailings, Collins said.