Skip to main content

'Lifeblood of the community': Wolfe Island ferry staffing shortages affecting islanders

Labour shortages are affecting services across the board, and now they’ve hit an essential service in Kingston, the Wolfe Island Ferry.

The Wolfe Islander III is the only means of getting on and off the island near Kingston. It can take 20 minutes to cross from the Kingston dock to Wolfe Island.

On Sunday morning, the Ministry of Transportation, which runs the ferry, announced it wouldn’t be running through the afternoon.

Anikó Boros and her husband missed that news and found themselves stuck on the mainland after coming over to go grocery shopping.

“We didn’t deserve it. I don’t know, I was in shock,” she said. “I don’t understand only one thing, why we don’t get any notification ever, if the ferry is out of service.”

It’s the second time the ferry has been affected by labour shortages. The last shutdown was narrowly avoided in August.

The vice president of the union represents ferry workers says they are struggling to retain members.

“Our wages are considerably lower than the industry standard,” says Lee MacLaren. “So people applying for jobs don’t apply with us anymore because the pay is so low to start. And we’ve actually had a number of people quit in the past few months.”

In a statement, the Ministry says there is an industry-wide shortage of seafaring workers, which it says has resulted in staffing challenges for ferry services in general.

“The ministry understands the impact of service disruptions to the public and is seeking long-term solutions to minimize further disruptions.”

The shutdown on Sunday ended early, after a crewmember was found.

“It’s tough. There’s a lot of liability and responsibility when you work on these boats, and it weighs heavy on the crew,” says MacLaren, of how crew members are feeling.

There are 1,500 residents living on the island full-time, and the free ferry has the capability to take hundreds of passengers across the water every hour.

Resident and business owner Mike Bromley says the ferry is important to the island and its residents.

“You’ve got retired people, old people like me that require health care, and we make trips to town more frequently for doctors appointments, chemotherapy. And it all results in issues,” he says. “The ferry is the lifeblood of the community. It brings everything we need from the mainland.” Top Stories

Stay Connected