HATTERAS, N.C. (WNCN) — Ferry service between Hatteras and Ocracoke will be reduced starting Friday due to a staff shortage caused by COVID-19 cases among employees, the North Carolina Department of Transportation said.
Five employees tested positive for the virus, according to the NCDOT. Because those employees need to stay home under isolation for at least 14 days, the NCDOT’s Ferry Division will be short-staffed and will have to reduce the number of trips between the two islands.
The staff members last worked on Thursday, according to the NCDOT.
Beginning today, ferry service will be reduced from 60 trips to 44 trips for at least two weeks, the NCDOT said.
The schedule will be as follows:
Hatteras: 5 a.m., 6 a.m., 7 a.m., 8 a.m., 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11 a.m., noon, 1 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m., 4 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 8 p.m., 9 p.m., 11 p.m. and midnight.
Ocracoke: 4:30 a.m., 6:30 a.m., 7:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., noon, 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 3 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 6 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 9 p.m., 9:30 p.m., 10:30 p.m., and midnight.
Ferry travelers are encouraged to call the Hatteras Terminal before arriving to check on schedules and estimated wait times. The ferry terminal’s number is 252-996-6000.
Service from the Currituck-Knots Island ferry route will be halted beginning Saturday and lasting through Monday. NCDOT officials said the staff will be working on the Hatteras-Ocracoke route.
Residents on Knotts Island have been pleading with the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Ferry Division to stop cutting off one of their modes of transportation.
“We’re tired of being pushed around,” said longtime resident Dwight Scott. “Stop shutting our lifeline down.”
In the last couple of months, the Curituck-Knotts Island Ferry has seen a number of cancellations. In July, the route was suspended for four days.
In August, an NCDOT Ferry Division spokesperson said they needed to send a crew to help run the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry. As the labor shortage continues to plague the entire nation, NCDOT’S ferry division is not immune.
“It’s an ongoing circle of us getting shut down to satisfy the needs of the Hatteras crew,” Scott said.
Scott said this is the third summer in a row this route has been impacted. In 2019, Dwight says maintenance got in the way. In 2020, COVID-19 concerns brought ferry operations to a halt. Now, 2021’s challenges.
As the pandemic continues, suspensions, delays and reduced service will likely continue to be an issue.
The NCDOT said they’re taking proper precautions to keep staff and passengers safe.
Employees and passengers are required to wear face coverings when inside the ferries and terminals, regardless of vaccination status, according to requirements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Transportation Security Administration.
NCDOT officials said the ferries and the terminals at Hatteras have been cleaned and sanitized since the positive test results came back.
The NCDOT’s Ferry Division is actively looking for workers. If you’re interested in applying, click here.