Washington State Ferries is suspending its international service to Sidney for almost a full month starting in November due to lack of vessels.
John Vezina, government relations director Washington State Ferries, announced the suspension in a note to affected local government representatives along the Anacortes-Sidney route including Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith.
At issue is the status of the Chelan, one of two vessels fit to service the route under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). Vezina said the vessel must be removed from service in early November for its US Coast Guard mandated annual inspection and maintenance.
“With no other SOLAS boat available, this will result in the suspension of our international service from Monday, Nov. 12 through Sunday, Dec. 8,” he said.
The Chelan had been working the route all summer, while the second SOLAS vessel — the 52-year-old Elwha — was undergoing an analysis of its steel.Elwhacontinues to undergo review and repair, a development that could ultimately keep that vessel out of action for some time.
Vezina said Washington State Ferries must continue to replace steel on the vessel’s deck this fall. It must also address the results of a recently completed steel analysis in working with the Coast Guard to determine potential future repairs.
“That process will last into October, with any ensuing repairs taking the boat out of service for several months,” said Vezina.
Vezina said there is no way to avoid the disruption. “We understand the impact service disruptions have on our customers and do our best to avoid them,” he said. “We are able to do the majority of the Chelan’s work in November, when ridership is at its lowest of our three seasons of international service, allowing us to return it to service before ridership increases before December holidays.”
Vezina promised a “robust outreach” to passengers to help them plan accordingly.