BC Ferries passenger volumes down by 42% in latest quarter

Feb 25 2021, 5:09 pm

Although there was an improvement compared to the onset of COVID-19 in Spring 2020, traffic on BC Ferries is still considerably depressed as of the latest fiscal quarter towards the end of last year.

In its third-quarter results for the fiscal year, ending March 31, 2021, BC Ferries saw 2.9 million passengers and 1.6 million vehicles over the final three months of 2020, representing a decrease of 40% and 22%, respectively, compared to the same period in 2019.

Over the first three quarters of the fiscal year, the ferry corporation recorded a total of 10.6 million passengers and 5.3 million vehicles, which represents a year-over-year decrease of 42% and 27%, respectively.

BC Ferries states it used $154.8 million of the $308 million it received from the provincial and federal government’s joint Safe Restart Program funding to cover operating revenue losses throughout the third quarter. This is equivalent to nine months’ worth of emergency operating funding.

Without the use of this funding, the net loss over the final three months of 2020 would have been $56.4 million. The use of the funding also led to net earnings of $98.4 million for this period, compared to a net loss of $8.3 million in the same quarter in 2019.

Prior to the pandemic, BC Ferries typically saw losses during the slower travel months over the fall and winter seasons, with the peak travel months in the spring and summer months offsetting those losses and resulting in an operating profit.

This fiscal year up to December 31, 2020, BC Ferries’ net earnings were $74.3 million, but without government funding, the ferry corporation would have had a net loss of $80.5 million, compared to net earnings of $98.9 million in the same period in the previous year.

The ferry corporation’s operating expenses over the third fiscal quarter fell by $6.7 million or 3.3% compared to the same period the previous year due to reduced round trips on major routes and the deferral of certain costs, including reduced labour, fuel consumption, and contracted services.

Over the first three fiscal quarters, between April and December, BC Ferries cut its operating expenses by $68.8 million or 10.6%. Much of these cuts took place in the spring before the restart of the economy in the early summer.

Capital costs on infrastructure reached a total of $90.8 million for the first three fiscal quarters, with $41.5 million spent during the third quarter.

Major investments included payments for the four Island Class vessels and one Salish Class vessel that was already under construction before the pandemic. BC Ferries has suspended major capital plans for review due to the pandemic’s impact on its finances.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

+ News
+ Transportation
+ Urbanized