Earlier this year, in the aftermath of some bad publicity about overtime pay for employees at Washington State Ferries (WSF), Gov. Chris Gregoire asked the Passenger Vessel Association to conduct a review of the state ferry system and provide some recommendations.
As a frequent WSF rider, I have a personal interest in this report. And as a somewhat-knowledgeable observer, I have often been critical of WSF. From surly deckhands to rusty steel to dirty bathrooms, the boats don’t exactly shine.
Overall, however, the PVA’s review gave WSF reasonably good marks. In the report’s conclusion, panel members stated, “The panel believes that WSF is well‐managed, with policies and procedures that generally match industry best practices.” At the same time, “Like any large, complex operation, there is always room for improvement.”
Frankly, I was hoping the panel would give WSF a kick in the butt, and maybe they did, but in a polite way. The report is filled with a long list of recommendations for improving everything from vessel procurement to customer services.
For boatbuilders outside the state of Washington, one recommendation probably rises above all others. The PVA recommended that the Washington State Department of Transportation bid the construction of new vessels nationwide. “No other ferry operator in the U.S. has a requirement for (in‐state) construction locally. The panel believes that Washington state would benefit from greater competition and from the access to federal funds that national bidding would allow.”
Gregoire has instructed WSDOT Secretary Paula Hammond and WSF chief David Moseley to get back to her by Nov. 15 about which recommendations they plan to implement.
And if the system is so well managed and only needs about 32 recommended tweakings, how come Gregoire has also asked PVA to look into the issue of privatization in a separate report?