By Connie Leinbach, Ocracoke Observer
The Ocracoke Observer asked the N.C. Ferry Division to respond to questions as to why several runs per day on the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry route have been canceled throughout the summer.
Timothy D. Hass, Ferry Division communications officer, responded with the following information:
Every year, the Ferry Division hires dozens of temporary employees to staff its expanded summer schedules. This year, like many businesses on the Outer Banks and across the country, we are facing a labor shortage.
As noted in previous press releases, the Ferry Division did not receive the number of qualified applicants needed to fill all the positions required to maintain a full summer schedule across the system.
As soon as the terminal manager knows the schedule that can be run given the number of people on duty, canceled runs are posted on the Hatteras Twitter account. Twitter has historically been where short-term schedule interruptions are posted as it is free and easy for passengers to receive updates.
In addition to social media, we also share long-term schedule changes/route cancellation information through news releases that are posted on our website.
We will return to our regular schedules as soon as we have the staff to run them. The number of vacant positions is always changing, but it’s safe to say that we still need dozens of employees to staff our schedule.
We continue to receive and process applications as soon as they come in. Some of the higher positions are being filled from within, creating openings at lower levels.
As we did earlier this year and in years past, we will hold job fairs next spring and continue advertising temporary and permanent openings to find qualified candidates to work in our Ferry Division.
A parking lot attendant requires only a TWIC (Transportation Worker Identification Card) which takes one to two weeks to acquire.
An Ordinary Seaman needs to be licensed as such, which can take up to a month. Positions above that require sea time, the amount of which varies with each position.
This weekend, a number of runs were also cancelled because five crewmembers tested positive for COVID-19, reducing the number of personnel available even further. The crew from Currituck-Knotts Island were brought down to help through Monday.
The Ocracoke Express passenger ferry will wrap up its 2021 season on Labor Day.