BC Ferries revenue down $700K per day, despite ridership rebound
The BC Ferries Swartz Bay terminal is shown: July 13, 2020 (CTV News)
VICTORIA -- BC Ferries is reporting that its daily revenue is down approximately $700,000 compared to the same time last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But, recent increases in ridership and the promise of federal financial support is offering hope to the ferry operator.
According to BC Ferries president and CEO Mark Collins, ferry ridership is up to about 80 per cent compared to the same time last year.
That figure represents a significant increase in BC Ferries ridership compared to earlier this year, when ferry traffic dipped to just 15 to 20 per cent of usual levels in mid-April.
“In terms of revenue losses, we’re still down about $700,000 a day, so still very serious,” Collins told CFAX 1070 on Tuesday.
“We’ve got our costs down to the extent that we can while still meeting our obligation to provide transportation to coastal British Columbians,” he said.
Collins says that BC Ferries has trimmed its costs down this year by not offering as many sailings as it did last summer, and by not hiring seasonal summer staff.
“Everybody’s back,” said Collins about BC Ferries layoffs during the pandemic. “Nobody’s on layoff for BC Ferries anymore and all of our casuals are back at work as well. The only thing we’re missing this year compared to last year is the seasonals that we normally hire.”
Collins says that seasonal workers were not needed this year as the ferry service is only offering approximately 80 to 90 per cent of the total sailings it held last summer.
BC Ferries says that it is offering less sailings overall due to less demand from travellers, and to save on costs.
Of the sailings that do remain, Collins says that each ship is able to fill its vehicle decks to 100 per cent capacity.
“So there’s no restriction on the car capacity for an individual ship,” he said.
There remains a maximum capacity of 75 per cent for walk-on passengers due to physical distancing guidelines.
While BC Ferries continues to face revenue losses of roughly $700,000 per day, Collins says that recent announcements from the federal government will help buoy the ferry operator through the pandemic.
“We were very encouraged about two weeks ago when the federal Minister of Environment, Jonathan Wilkinson, announced that the federal government has included BC ferries in its transit aid package,” he said.
Collins says he has reached out to the B.C. government to clarify what the aid will entail, but added that he was “confident” the federal government understood the situation.
The BC Ferries president said that, as far as the organization is aware, no cases of COVID-19 have been linked to the ferry system.
“Our frontline people are out there every day directly with the public in a lot of close quarters, taking care, taking all the protocols seriously, and they’re doing a great job,” he said.
“We know it’s busy out there… we know it can be frustrating but we ask for people’s patience. We ask them to respect our staff and we will get you where you’re going as safely and as comfortably as possible,” he said.