VICTORIA -- BC Ferries says the coronavirus pandemic has slashed its earnings nearly in half since last year as the company faced a unprecedented decline in traffic at the end of its 2020 fiscal year.

The ferry operator reported net earnings of $28.8 million for the year ending March 31, down from $52.2 million during the same period last year.

“This past year will go down in memory as the fiscal year in which the first 50 weeks delivered one of BC Ferries’ strongest performances to date, while the last two weeks of the fiscal year brought traffic to a near halt,” said BC Ferries president Mark Collins in a statement Thursday.

“The challenges of COVID-19 have been nothing short of profound, with impacts shared by all B.C. businesses, our province, our country and the world.”

BC Ferries reduced its service levels during the pandemic as travel became increasingly restricted and British Columbians were urged to self-isolate at home.

“Going forward, our revised plans provide core essential service to coastal communities, while preserving our ability to operate sustainably,” said Collins, adding that more cost reductions are looming for the ferry service.

“Without question, this requires reducing costs further and looking for additional efficiencies. We have reduced operating and capital spending significantly and will only proceed with expenditures directly linked to safety and critical operations.”

Despite the drop in earnings, the ferry operator’s overall revenues for 2020 remained high at $941,394,000, versus $925,653,000 in 2019.

BC Ferries says it invested $238.1 million in capital expenditures, including $140.9 million for new vessels; $45.6 million for vessel upgrades and modifications; $26.0 million for information technology; $15.5 million for terminal marine structures; and $10.1 million for terminal building upgrades.

BC Ferries provided over 82,000 round trips during fiscal 2020, carrying 8.8 million vehicles and 21.7 million passengers.

For the first 50 weeks of last year, passenger traffic was up 0.1 per cent and vehicle traffic was up 1.3 per cent, according to the ferry operator.

During the last two weeks of March, traffic dropped off by 55 per cent for vehicles and 69 per cent in passengers. The decline resulted in an overall decrease of one per cent in vehicle traffic and 2.7 per cent in passenger traffic compared to the prior year.