Besides having to deal with a loss of workers, including 120 who were fired over the COVID vax mandate, the WA State Ferry System is down nearly half its fleet.

  The ferry situation not going to improve much

 According to KIRO News in Seattle, worker numbers are starting to increase following COVID, allowing more crews and more ferry runs on the west side. But the fleet, overseen by the WA State Department of Transportation, is down ten boats and that has reduced some runs, and completely eliminated one route.

WA state has the largest ferry system in the US, in 2023, 1.3 million passengers rode the ten routes operated by the boats, and thousands of vehicles were transported. But instead of an ideal fleet of 26 boats, they only have 16. According to KIRO, the state can't order and put into service newer diesel ferries while they wait for the hybrid (diesel-electric) models to be built. Those are a pet project of outgoing Governor Jay Inslee.

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The large Olympic-class ferries are so old, most dating back to the 50s and 60s that replacement parts are no longer available. And, the company that built them has long since gone out of business.  The Ferry system has to manufacture replacement parts at their Eagle Habor maintenance facility. Officials say nobody in the US, or even globally, is making these kinds of ferries anymore.

Part of the issue facing WA when it comes to finding 'new' used ferries is that ours are unique. They have propellers and entry-exits on both ends, and two control towers, so they can save a LOT of time and fuel by not having to turn around. Very few other systems utilize this technology. Officials did locate a potentially useable ferry in Sweden, but after examination, it was not feasible.

Proposals have been bid out to build at least five new hybrid models, but they won't be ready for years. KIRO says the Ferry system hopes to have 16 new boats in the fleet by 2040.


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