BC Ferries demand reached new heights earlier this year to the extent that it saw a new all-time record for a quarter — and this was all before the peak period of the summer.
In its newly released quarterly report today, the ferry corporation announced it saw 5.8 million passengers and 2.5 million vehicles over the first quarter of its current fiscal year between April 1 and June 30, 2023. That represents an increase of 7% and 3%, respectively, compared to the same quarter in 2022.
The ferry corporation has been reporting consecutive records in recent years since the pandemic rebound.
“This quarter we sailed a record number of round trips and moved more people and vehicles than ever before in our history,” said Nicolas Jimenez, the president and CEO of BC Ferries, in a statement.
The quarter saw net earnings of $15.2 million, which is nearly double the net earnings of $7.9 million over the same period in 2022, while net revenues for the quarter reached $287 million, representing an 8% increase over the same quarter in 2022. The increases are mainly due to higher traffic volumes, fare increases, higher retail sales, and fuel surcharges.
Operating costs over the quarter also went up by $18.5 million to $261 million due to the increased number of sailings, which led to higher labour costs and fuel consumption, as well as higher wage rates, maintenance expenses, and depreciation.
Jimenez says 98.6% of their sailings happened as planned over the first quarter overlapping with the spring months.
“We’re actively hiring to address our crewing shortages, which will improve staffing resiliency and support reliable service for our customers. I want to thank our staff for their dedication, professionalism and most importantly, for keeping everyone safe in our terminals and on board our vessels during this very busy time,” he continued.
But BC Ferries has seen a very rough second quarter for the fiscal year to date.
In July, the ferry corporation’s communications systems saw a breakdown, with the website failing to show accurate real-time sailing information due to a technical issue.
Some of BC Ferries’ largest vessels that specifically serve its busiest routes between Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island have also been sent out of service as a result of mechanical issues.
This includes an unexpected visit to the shipyard for the Coastal Celebration vessel in July, which serves the route between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay. It was out of service for well over a week.
Then on August 17, the Coastal Renaissance vessel, which serves the route between Tsawwassen and Nanaimo, went out of service due to a major issue with its engine. The complex fix is expected to take until the middle of October, at which point the ship will re-enter service.
Along with longer than usual waits at the terminals this summer to date, the resiliency and reliability of BC’s coastal ferry system is increasingly being questioned.
“We have struggled,” said Jimenez earlier this month.
BC Ferries’ performance results for its challenging current quarter will be released this fall, based on the typical November release in previous years.