BC Ferries says it transported a record number of vehicles in its 2023 fiscal year despite a “high level” of sailing cancellations due to staff shortages.
March 31 was the end of the fiscal year, when the company carried 21.6 million passengers and 9.4 million vehicles — an increase of 21 and 11 per cent, respectively, from the year before.
Vehicle traffic was the highest ever recorded in BC Ferries’ 63-year history and is “primarily as a result of the removal of travel restrictions” first implemented amid the pandemic, according to BC Ferries.
As a result, fiscal 2023’s earnings surged as well.
“Revenue for the year ended March 31, 2023, was $1.04 billion, an increase of $77.4 million or 8 per cent from the prior year,” the company says.
It says Saver fares, first introduced two years ago, have also contributed to more vehicle traffic on traditionally lower-utilized sailings.
In fiscal 2023, BC Ferries delivered 86,835 round trips — 4,000 more than in fiscal 2022 — even as it “experienced a high level of sailing cancellations due to the company’s inability to secure sufficient crew.”
The company says 1.6 per cent of sailings were cancelled compared to 1.2 per cent in 2022. On Friday, for example, two sailings were called off on the Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route.
“We know that even one cancellation is one too many for the millions of travellers who depend on the coastal ferry system,” said BC Ferries CEO Nicolas Jimenez, noting the company is “working hard to fill key positions.”
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As cancellations increased, so too did expenses.
In fiscal 2023, expenses for BC Ferries increased to $991.5 million — up from 2022’s $868 million and “mainly due to the increased number of round trips with corresponding higher labour costs and fuel consumption, as well as increased fuel prices, maintenance expenses and depreciation.”
The company also recorded a net loss of $1.8 million compared to 2022’s net earnings of $34.1 million, though it did receive $102.3 million in Safe Restart Funding that year.
“Despite high inflation and operating costs, we will continue to invest in our most valuable asset, our people, who are the backbone of BC Ferries,” added Jimenez.
“I am constantly impressed by their commitment to provide the best possible customer experience for every passenger who travels with us.”
BC Ferries says it continues to make “significant investments” to ensure the long-term sustainability of the coastal ferry system, including in fiscal 2023 when it invested $131.4 million in vessel and terminal building upgrades, terminal marine structures, information technology and various other projects.