As the COVID-19 pandemic sunk passenger numbers and revenues, BC Ferries would have lost $80.5 million by Dec. 31, 2020, had it not received support from taxpayers.
BC Ferries released its third quarter results Monday (Feb. 22), for the fiscal year ending on March 31.
These results show that BC Ferries received $308 million in December 2020 through the Safe Restart Program, a joint federal-provincial program designed to help provinces and territories safely restart their economies. BC Ferries counted $154.8 million of this funding toward revenues, leaving the company with net earnings of $74.3 million year-to-date as of Dec. 31, 2020.
“Without federal-provincial Safe Restart funding, the company would have had a net loss of $80.5 million, compared to net earnings of $98.9 million in the same period in the prior year,” reads a release.
Figures for the third quarter roughly mirror figures year-to-date.
BC Ferries carried 2.9 million passengers and 1.6 million vehicles during the final three months of 2020, a decrease of 39.6 per cent and 22.3 per cent respectively compared to the same period in 2019. Year-to-date, the company carried 10.6 million passengers and 5.3 million vehicles, a drop of 42.1 per cent and 26.9 per cent compared to the same period in the prior year.
BC Ferries blames COVID-19 for declining traffic and revenues. “This trend is expected to continue in the near term as the province recovers from the effects of the pandemic,” it reads.
Mark Collins, president and CEO of BC Ferries, said the restart funding will help the company protect what he calls the “long-term sustainability of the ferry system to recover our losses and maintain service and future investments in ferry-dependent communities.”
The re-start funding consists of three components: relief toward operating costs ($280 million); funding to limit fare increases to an average of 2.3 per cent in respective fiscal years of 2022, 2023 and 2024 ($24 million); and funding for discretionary sailings for fiscal 2022 through 2024 ($4 million).
BC Ferries has taken steps to reduce expenses by $68.8 million or 10.6 per cent year-to-date compared to the same period, mainly through reduced round trips on major routes. Reduced labour costs, fuel consumption and others are among cost-saving measures.
BC Ferries also ratified a new five-year-long labour agreement reached in October 2020 that calls for wage increases of zero, two and two per cent during the first three years of the agreement with wage re-openers scheduled for the fourth and fifth years. BC Ferries is also reviewing all capital plans to defer any costs that are not necessary for reasons of operations, regulations, and security and safety.
In 2003, the BC Liberals converted BC Ferries from the Crown corporation created in 1960 into a half-public, half-private company with the provincial government as the sole shareholder.
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