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Sidney-Anacortes ferry won’t sail until summer 2023 at the earliest

The historic ferry service started 100 years ago, blames labour issues for re-start delays
Washington State Ferries said a return of the Sidney-Anacortes ferry run is not expected to resume until summer 2023 at the earliest. (Black Press Media file photo)

Officials on both sides of the Sidney-Anacortes ferry route confirmed Thursday what they had already signalled earlier.

The historic ferry connection between the two communities will not run this year, with the service expected to resume by summer 2023 at the earliest.

The Town of Sidney announced in a release that Washington State Ferries (WSF) had informed the municipality that it does not anticipate being able to operate the Sidney-Anacortes route until the summer of 2023 at the earliest because of labour shortages.

Mayor Cliff McNeil Smith said in the release that this important connection between the Saanich Peninsula and the United States will remain suspended. “(However), we recognize that Washington State Ferries is making every effort to restore its former routes,” he said.

McNeil-Smith said Sidney was looking forward to celebrating the 100th anniversary of the ferry service this year with Anacortes, Sidney’s sister city since 1996. “We remain committed to this ferry route and look forward to its return,” he said.

RELATED: Spring sailings cancelled between Sidney and Anacortes, summer sailings unlikely

Ian Sterling, public information officer with Washington State Ferries, said the ferry won’t resume service until at least next summer because of ongoing (but slowly improving) crew shortages.

WSF announced earlier this spring that the spring sailings wouldn’t take place with summer sailings in 2022 also unlikely.

“While we continue recruiting, hiring, and training, it’s highly unlikely we’ll have crewing available for the Sidney route in this reservation horizon or for the summer release as well,” John Vezina, WSF director of government relations, said in a statement at the time.

Ferries have operated between Sidney and Anacortes since 1922, first under private ownership, then by WSF since 1951. WSF suspended service in March 2020 because of COVID-19. Historically, WSF offers one daily round-trip sailing during the second quarter and fourth quarter, two daily round-trip sailings during the third (summer) quarter, and suspending service during the opening quarter.

The sailing between Sidney and Anacortes is part of a larger route connecting Anacortes with San Juan Island. While Sidney-Anacortes isn’t a major route in Washington’s ferry system – accounting for 0.5 per cent of the system’s total passengers in 2019 – it bears significant historical, cultural and economic significance for the region.

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