BC Ferries passenger volumes down by 29% between July and September

Nov 20 2020, 11:53 am

Between July and September 2020, BC Ferries recorded 5.5 million passengers and 2.5 million vehicles, representing a 29% and 14% decrease, respectively, over the same period last year.

Over the six months of the fiscal year, the coastal ferry services saw 7.7 million passengers and 3.8 million vehicles, which is a 43% and 29.7% drop, respectively, compared to the same periods in 2019.

This shows the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact during the first few months and the decision to scale back services severely at the time. Under BC’s restart, during peak summer months, ferry services were largely restored.

These ridership figures were from the ferry corporation’s newly released second-quarter results for the current fiscal year, which began on April 1.

The second fiscal quarter’s net earnings were $37.8 million — about $57 million lower than the same quarter last year.

This fiscal year to date, net losses were $24.2 million, compared to the net earnings of $107.2 million in 2019, representing a decline of $131.4 million.

Total revenue for the quarter was $247.6 million — down $81.7 million year-over-year. Revenue for the first two quarters reached $385 million, a drop from $190.7 million over the same period in 2019.

“COVID-19 continues to have a significant impact on the ferry system as we navigate through what is now the new normal with our employees, our customers and all British Columbians,” said Mark Collins, president and CEO of BC Ferries in a statement.

“Throughout the pandemic, our employees continue to provide lifeline service to coastal communities, and I want to recognize their dedication and perseverance, which has been nothing short of inspiring.”

The ferry corporation continues to make operational cost savings; expenses from operations over the second quarter fell by $25.4 million or 11.5% compared to the same quarter in 2019. Over the first two quarters, expenses from operations decreased by $62.1 million or 14.1% year-over-year, including reduced labour, fuel consumption, maintenance, contracted service, depreciation expense, travel, non-safety related training, and advertising.

In September 2020, the federal and provincial governments announced BC Ferries would receive $308 million in emergency operating funding to help cover losses to date and forecasted losses through 2021. This was part of a $1 billion emergency operating funding package to public transit systems in BC, with the other recipients being TransLink ($644 million) and BC Transit ($86 million).

Before COVID-19, BC Ferries had a 12-year capital plan of $3.9 billion that included new vessels, upgrades and modifications of existing vessels, and major overhauls of ferry terminals, including a rebuild of the Horseshoe Bay terminal.

However, with the pandemic’s impact, Collins states the ferry corporation is reviewing all capital plans to identify opportunities to defer any expenditures that are “not regulatory, security or safety-related or operationally necessary.”

“It’s imperative that we scrutinize everything we do to preserve the long-term sustainability of the ferry system in the public interest,” he said.

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