BC Ferries sees increased traffic as government funds help minimize losses

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BC Ferries saw increased traffic this year over last, but is still experiencing a decline in revenue compared to pre-COVID times.

In December 2020, BC Ferries received $308 million through the Safe Restart Program, a federal-provincial initiative intended to help provinces and territories safely restart their economies. 

Safe Restart Funding of $60 million was applied towards BC Ferries’ operating losses in the three months ending June 30, 2021. Without the Safe Restart Funding, revenues in this period would have been $169.2 million and net losses would have been $55.3 million.

“BC Ferries, on behalf of the coastal ferry system and its users, is appreciative of the contributions from both the federal and provincial governments so the company can connect communities, deliver essential goods and help restore tourism in the destinations it serves,” reads a news release from BC Ferries.  

The goals of the program are to mitigate the impact of revenue losses and COVID-19-related spending, to help restore the level of annual earnings required to maintain service levels and to keep fare increases to affordable levels through March 31, 2024.

BC Ferries released its first quarter results for the three months ending June 30, 2021. In the first three months, vehicle and passenger traffic increased 37 per cent and 40 per cent respectively, compared to the same period in the prior year. 

Vehicle and passenger traffic were down by 27 per cent and 46 per cent respectively, compared to the same period in fiscal 2020, a pre-COVID time, according to BC Ferries.

In the three months ending June 30, 2021, revenues increased $91.8 million compared to the same period last year, primarily as a result of the Safe Restart Funding, increases in traffic volumes and net retail sales, according to BC Ferries. In the three months ended June 30, 2021, net earnings were $4.7 million, representing an increase of $66.7 million compared to a net loss of $62.0 million in the same period the year before.  

“Traffic was stronger in this quarter than the same period last year, but still well below expectations given the impacts of the third wave of COVID-19,” said Mark Collins, BC Ferries’ president and CEO. “Throughout the period, BC Ferries continued to provide lifeline service to coastal communities and we are pleased to see positive momentum with the return of summer leisure travel.”

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