BC Ferries sees increased ferry travel in 2021 due to lifted pandemic restrictions: report

BC Ferries sees increased ferry travel in 2021 due to lifted pandemic restrictions: report
The numbers were up from the same time in 2019, before the pandemic began. (CHEK News)

Millions of people travelled to Vancouver Island and other areas by ferry this year after many COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.

According to a second-quarter report, BC Ferries carried seven million passengers and three million vehicles in the three months ending on Sept. 30, which they say is an increase of 28 per cent and 20 per cent respectively compared to the same months in 2020.

The numbers are also up nine per cent for passenger traffic and three per cent for vehicles compared to a non-pandemic time in 2019, according to BC Ferries.

They say fare choices, including advance purchase Saver Fares, allowed for the increase. The fares were launched on three Vancouver to Vancouver Island routes and passengers took different sailings with fewer waits, allowing for more people to come to the Island.

Revenue was also up $69.2 million from the quarterly a year before and up $161 million year-to-date. They are also projecting for higher revenues in fiscal 2022, according to the report.

Despite the increase in traffic, they say they are cautious about the future as summer is their busiest season.

“We were pleased to see strong traffic levels this quarter, but we remain cautious about what the future will bring,” said Mark Collins, BC Ferries’ president and CEO.

“Summer is our high season so it’s challenging to predict with any certainty when conditions will return to pre-pandemic levels for the longer-term.”

The company says that while revenue has increased, so have their expenses. Expenses have increased by $28 million (14.3%) to $223.3 million compared to the same three-month period in 2020. Expenses have also increased 14.5 per cent over the year, according to the report.

Collins says higher net revenues are normal for this time of year and usually record net losses in the back half of the year.

“Due to the seasonality of ferry travel, we usually see positive net earnings in the first half of the fiscal year, partially offset by net losses in the remainder of the year when traffic is low and routine vessel maintenance is scheduled,” said Collins.

BC Ferries says they received $308 million through the Safe Restart Program. They say without funding of $62.8 million from the Safe Restart Program, they would have seen revenue increases of $98.2 million over six months from last year instead of $161 million while net earnings would have been $21.8 million.

Capital expenses also rose as the company purchased new electric vessels, did overhauls and other inspections.

BC Ferries says their full financial statements will be available online at www.sedar.com.

READ MORE: New high-speed passenger ferry to travel between Nanaimo, Downtown Vancouver

Justin WaddellJustin Waddell

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