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Staten Island Ferry service expected to return to normal Thursday amid staffing shortage

STATEN ISLAND (WABC) — Service on the Staten Island Ferry is expected to be back to normal Thursday morning after a rough night for commuters amid a staffing shortage that previously caused canceled routes.

In the latest update, ferries were expected to start running every 10-15 minutes beginning during the morning and evening rush hour, according to the city’s Twitter account.

Officials had to change the schedule late Wednesday to run every hour instead of every 15 minutes after a huge chunk of the ferry workforce failed to show up to work.

The MTA encouraged commuters to seek out alternative routes and said New York City Transit had increased bus service to Staten Island.

Increased express bus service was provided on the SIM1/SIM1C (Hylan Blvd), SIM3/SIM3C (Port Richmond) and SIM4/SIM4C (Richmond Avenue).

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Customers could also take a Brooklyn-bound R train from Whitehall St-South Ferry to 86th St and 4 Ave in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Customers could continue their journey to Staten Island by taking the S79 SBS, S53 or S93 bus where service would be augmented as necessary. Limited service was suspended on all Staten Island local routes (except for S93 and S89).

“COVID is not the issue at the ferry right now. The fact that DOT is saying it’s an issue is the larger issue. It’s actually the fact that we’re very shorthanded in all of our titles,” said MEBA Secretary-Treasurer, Roland Rexha.

The ferry is currently short-staffed by approximately 15 workers in key operational positions, such as assistant captains, engineers, and oilers.

The ferry operated on an overnight hourly schedule Tuesday into Wednesday. It ran 20 minute service through the morning rush, down from the normal service every 15 minutes.

Due to the short-staffing, it can be difficult to run full service whenever crew members are off, on vacation, or unexpected illnesses.

“If you’re short one person in one of those titles it’s damning, but if you’re short three or four in a title like the marine engineer that has 18 jobs, if you’re missing four people, you’re missing almost a quarter of your workforce,” Rexha said.

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Filling the vacant positions has been a struggle due to a national shortage of qualified, professional mariners.

The ongoing short-staffing has also forced existing crew members to work longer shifts without proper breaks, contributing to worker fatigue that could pose potential safety issues.

“We’re navigating some of the most heavily-trafficked waters in the country. The fact that they’re not getting proper breaks is a reason for employee fatigue, and it also burns people out and makes them want to leave the job,” Rexha said.

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