Maine Ferry Trips Getting Canceled Due to Staffing Shortages

“We’ve been struggling to recruit and retain workers for years,” said Paul Merrill, a spokesperson for the state Department of Transportation

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Ferry trips on multiple Maine routes are getting canceled with qualified mariners in short supply.

In yet another example of a field that is tight on employees, Maine Department of Transportation spokesperson Paul Merrill told us that 59 Maine State Ferry trips have been cancelled over the past few months because there have not been enough staff to operate them.

“We’ve been struggling to recruit and retain workers for years,” said Merrill, adding that the problem “became acute” earlier in 2022.

While the 59 cancelled represent only 1.3% of a total 4,590 trips scheduled in that same period, Merrill said the agency recognizes that each ferry provides essential services to Maine islands, like transporting people to doctor’s appointments on the mainland and transporting construction materials.

A ferry route from Maine to Canada that shut down more than a decade ago will be reopening next spring.

“We’re trying to get creative about ways to keep these vessels staffed safely and legally,” he said. “One cancelled trip is too many.

Like the state ferry service, Casco Bay Lines, which operates to southern Maine islands from Portland, says it is having to trim certain runs from its schedule because of staff shortages, too.

Those boats are generally low-volume departures in the early mornings.

“I’ve been doing this on and off for twenty plus years and I’ve never seen it quite this bad,” said Nathan Contant, an operations agent for Casco Bay Lines.

“Even with a pay raise and a bunch of other things, we’ve had a lot of turnover we weren’t expecting and kids who get hired and find a better job two weeks later,” he said.

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