In this Feb. 25, 2019, file photo, a ferry enters Rockland Harbor Monday. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

The Maine State Ferry Service has canceled several dozen runs since early May because of maritime staffing shortages.

The Islesboro route alone has had 20 cancellations this week. From May 9 through July 4, there were a total of 29 cancellations across all six routes to Maine islands, said Paul Merrill, a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation.

He said it takes four-to-five trained and credentialed seamen to operate each vessel.

“We don’t like doing this, obviously,” Merrill said. “We know that every one ferry run that gets impacted for whatever reason means that somebody is not getting to work or to school or to see family. It’s not something we like to do; we just don’t have the staff at some points to safely operate. The ferry service does a really good job of trying to put together the puzzle pieces to make this thing work. Some days they run out of pieces.”

It became apparent earlier this spring that the ferry service may have to cancel more runs than usual, Merrill said. Transportation Commissioner Bruce Van Note notified town officials and Ferry Service Advisory Board members about the staffing issues.

The ferry service is offering bonuses and stipends to fill at least nine open positions, but the entire maritime industry is facing similar challenges.

“It would be easier if we could have somebody who drives the plow truck in the winter come in and lend a hand or have somebody from the islands come in and volunteer,” Merrill said. “That’s not the case though; these are skilled and credentialed positions that involve some training and certification.”

The ferry service is also discussing how it can better communicate route cancellations or changes. But Merrill said the best way to track them is by signing up for 511 traffic alerts through the Department of Transportation’s website.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.