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Tahlequah ferry service won’t be reduced

The Tahlequah ferry route will not lose its 10 p.m. sailing, thanks to an 11th-hour agreement forged between state and union officials last week.

Islanders stood to lose the sailing — the last one of the day — because of a U.S. Coast Guard requirement that bans 24-hour “touring watches,” in which crews sleep on the boat for eight hours, between the last run of the night and the first one in the morning.

The Coast Guard requirement meant crews could no longer tie up at Tahlequah but had to end their night at the Tacoma side — forcing Washington State Ferries to eliminate its last run.

But after several rounds of negotiations between the state and union officials, the two sides agreed to new, 10-hour shifts, enabling the state to maintain its 10 p.m. sailing or possibly add even a later one, said David Moseley, who heads the state ferry system.

The union contract had limited crews to eight-hour shifts. The new agreement gives the state the flexibility it needs to adhere to the Coast Guard requirements while maintaining service, Moseley said.

“Because our staff will be working a 10-hour shift rather than an eight-hour one, we can extend the schedule,” he said.

Both state and union officials “worked very hard” to forge an agreement, he said. “It took quite a while, but in the end, we resolved our differences.”

Kari Ulatoski, an advocate for ferry service on Vashon, said the agreement demonstrates Moseley’s com-

mitment to the Island and other ferry-served communities. It also reflects well on the union, she said.

“David Moseley is heads above his predecessors as far as his willingness to work with Vashon and other ferry communities,” she said.

But the victory is a small one, she added, if the state doesn’t establish a long-term funding source for the beleaguered system.“We need to keep our eyes on the bigger issues,” she said.

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