Staffing issues force B.C. ferry cancellations after company warns about impact of Omicron

·3 min read
B.C. Ferries says its customers could see schedule changes in the coming days as the company suffers staffing challenges. (Christer Waara/CBC - image credit)
B.C. Ferries says its customers could see schedule changes in the coming days as the company suffers staffing challenges. (Christer Waara/CBC - image credit)

Several B.C. Ferries sailings between Vancouver and Vancouver Island were cancelled Tuesday morning due to staffing issues.

The cancellations — on the busy route between Nanaimo and West Vancouver — come in the wake of a warning issued by the company Monday that said a combination of the fast-spreading Omicron COVID-19 variant, a global shortage of mariners, severe weather and the flu season have the potential to disrupt ferry service over the next few months.

The problem would likely hit inter-island routes hardest, the company said in a statement.

It says crewing regulations require that positions on ferries be filled with the appropriate crew or a vessel can't sail.

Even if a small number of crew don't show up, it says finding replacements can be difficult.

B.C. Ferries says it has a pool of staff in reserve and cross-trains crew members, but there will be times when the company will have to change its service.

It says no schedule is expected to be suspended completely, but routes may be operated on a modified schedule.

Testing site shut

Staff shortages are already impacting COVID-19 testing capacity in B.C.

On Monday, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) announced it was temporarily closing its testing site at the Life Sciences Centre at the University of British Columbia for that reason.

"VCH appreciates the support and understanding of the public as our staff remain committed to delivering testing services, despite the sustained increase in demand for care across our testing sites," said the health authority in a statement posted to social media.

Other testing sites are available in the Metro Vancouver region and a complete list of locations can be found on the B.C. Centre for Disease Control's website.

Police plan for staffing shortages

The Victoria Police Department (VicPD) is preparing to move all its available officers to front-line policing duties as it anticipates staffing shortages caused by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

A statement from the department issued last week said, for the first time, it is enacting a clause in its contract with its police union that allows for the potential assignment of all officers to front-line duties.

Victoria police Chief Del Manak says maintaining continuity of police operations is critical during the pandemic.

"I am extremely grateful to our officers who are adjusting their shifts and schedules to serve on the front lines," Manak said in a statement issued Thursday, Jan. 6.

On Jan.5, more than half the firefighters at the Prince Rupert Fire Rescue Department were off work due to COVID-19, although several have since returned.

The Vancouver Police Department said Monday that resources were stretched thin as officers investigate multiple violent crimes over the weekend, but staffing levels have not been impacted by the Omicron surge.

"At this point, we are not currently concerned with our staffing levels or our ability to keep the community safe and to serve the public," Sgt. Steve Addison said at a Monday news briefing.

"We also have a contingency plan in place should things change. These are contingency plans that have been in place throughout the pandemic in the event that a number of our officers do go down. At this point, we haven't had to do that and we're doing OK."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting