BC Ferries just experienced one of its best years ever for traffic volumes.
According to the ferry corporation’s year-end results released today, the provincial ferry network saw a 5% increase in vehicle traffic, marking the highest traffic levels in BC Ferries’ history.
Foot passenger traffic spiked by 4.7%, elevating ridership levels to the highest in two decades.
These record volumes translated into higher operating revenues for the fiscal year, with revenues rising by $39.7 million from $859.3 million to $899 million. Higher volumes also generated additional food and beverage and retail sales onboard vessels and at the ferry terminals.
“Strong financial results are essential for us to improve the customer experience in a variety of ways. This performance helps us to increase service, invest in new vessels and terminal infrastructure, offer discounts and minimize borrowing,” said Mark Collins, BC Ferries’ President and CEO, who assumed the company’s leadership role in April 2017.
“Robust earnings allow us to operate a sustainable coastal ferry system that will serve our customers for generations to come. We also use net earnings to deliver an improving customer experience with modernized information technology systems and more environmentally-friendly ships.”
BC Ferries also notes that it provided over 174,000 sailings – about 3,000 more round trips than it is required under contract with the provincial government and 1,200 more round trips compared to the previous year. This was done at a cost to BC Ferries to accommodate higher traffic levels and improve customer experience.
As a result, operating expenses increased by $56.5 million from $726.2 million to $782.7 million.
Earlier this year, acting on a provincial government mandate, BC Ferries reduced fares on 21 northern and inter-island routes by 15% and froze fares for the three major routes between Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island. It also increased the seniors’ passenger discount from 50% to 100% for travel between Monday and Thursday.
The fare changes and cancellation of the planned fare hike cost $98 million, which is funded by subsidies of $59 million by the provincial government and $39 million by the ferry corporation.
However, as of June 27, BC Ferries will cancel its fuel rebates, which passes the savings from lower fuel prices to passengers. Fares are higher when the ferry corporation charges a fuel surcharge to cover the higher cost of fuel. For the Metro Vancouver to Vancouver Island routes, a fuel rebate of 2.9% equates to $0.50 for an adult and $1.70 for a vehicle.
The fuel rebate program was introduced in 2016, but BC Ferries says it does not financially benefit from the mechanism, and market trends show that it is no longer needed as global fuel prices will continue to rise.
During this fiscal period, $252.3 million was spent on capital expenditures, such as renovations and upgrades to facilities and vessels and the acquisition of new vessels.