BC Ferries’ traffic, revenue, net earnings and expenditures all rose in its recent fiscal year which ended March 31, 2022, however the results lagged behind pre-pandemic levels, data from the British Columbia transport provider show.
During the fiscal year, BC Ferries carried 17.9 million passengers and 8.5 million vehicles, an increase of 37% and 26%, respectively, compared to the prior year.
“While these increases are significant, passenger and vehicle traffic were 20% and 5% lower respectively, compared to the same period in fiscal 2019, a pre-COVID-19 year,” the company said in a June 24 statement.
In the year ended March 31, 2022, BC Ferries experienced a net loss of $68.2 million prior to recognizing Safe Restart funding. The Safe Restart Agreement is a federal investment of more than $19 billion to help provinces and territories safely restart economies affected by the global pandemic.
In December 2020, the ferry operator received $308 million through the program.
After recognizing $102.3 million of this federal-provincial funding, net earnings were $34.1 million, an increase of $13.1 million compared to the previous year, which included $186 million in Safe Restart funding, according to BC Ferries.
Assistance to the public transportation sector, including BC Ferries, has been a critical part of the BC Safe Restart Plan. Without the funding, BC Ferries would have recorded a total loss of $233.2 million over the past two years ($68.2 million in fiscal 2022 and $165 million in fiscal 2021), according to the company.
In the latest fiscal year, revenue was $965.4 million, an increase of $100.1 million or 12% compared to the prior year, primarily as a result of higher traffic volumes and net retail sales, partially offset by lower Safe Restart funding.
Operating expenses in fiscal 2022 were $868.0 million, an increase of $88.2 million or 11% compared to the prior year.
“This increase,” the company said, “is mainly due to increases in the number of sailings provided, staff required to provide more service, fuel and maintenance expenses.”
Despite the pandemic, BC Ferries continued to invest in new vessels, vessel upgrades, terminal infrastructure and information technology.
Capital expenditures for fiscal 2022 totaled $171.3 million, up from $122.0 million in the prior year. During fiscal 2022, four more battery-electric hybrid Island Class vessels and one more liquefied natural gas-fueled Salish Class vessel were delivered to BC Ferries.