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Islesboro Residents Alarmed by Maine State Ferry Service’s Cancellations, Understaffing, Low Pay

Andy O’Brien
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Nearly 40 residents of Islesboro joined in a community forum Thursday night, June 20, to express their concerns about Maine State Ferry Service cancellations, understaffing and low pay as ferry service interruptions on neighboring islands have become the norm.

While Islesboro’s ferry to and from Lincolnville hasn’t been canceled due to understaffing, their ferry has been canceled occasionally due to mechanical failure on boats or equipment problems. At the forum, Islesboro residents said they are watching nervously as ferry cancellations are announced for the Vinalhaven-Rockland run and the Bass Harbor-Swans Island run.

Islesboro residents expressed concern about the possibility of cuts to their ferry service as a result of the cancellations on the other runs. They said they fear that poor management and scheduling at the Maine State Ferry Service, along with the ferry service’s understaffing and low pay for ferry workers, eventually could impact their ferry runs as well.

“The pay issue, which is critical, is up to the Governor and administration to address,” said Islesboro resident Patty Slawson. “As community members, we all need to be calling on Gov. Janet Mills to improve pay rates.”

Island and mainland residents and visitors circulated a petition calling on Maine Department of Transportation Commissioner Bruce Van Note to address the ongoing staffing crisis.  

Joining the Islesboro residents were ferry crew members represented by the Maine Service Employees Association, Local 1989 of the Service Employees International Union (MSEA-SEIU Local 1989). The crew members said the state’s low pay has made it extremely difficult to recruit and retain crews for ferry services.

“The Ferry Service struggles to hire and retain staff because of comparative low wages, and changes in available positions and challenges with schedule management exacerbate staffing issues,” said MSEA-SEIU Retiree Member Peter Drury, a former ferry captain of 26 years and a Vinalhaven resident who participated in the Islesboro forum.