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Safe restart funding helps BC Ferries address COVID-19 impacts on third quarter results

Press Release

VICTORIA – BC Ferries released its third quarter results today for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021. The COVID-19 global pandemic continues to have a significant impact on the company’s operations and financial results. During the quarter, BC Ferries carried 2.9 million passengers and 1.6 million vehicles, a decrease of 39.6 per cent and 22.3 per cent, respectively, compared to the same period in the prior year. Year-to-date, the company carried 10.6 million passengers and 5.3 million vehicles, a decrease of 42.1 per cent and 26.9 per cent, respectively, compared to the same period in the prior year.

As a regulated company, BC Ferries’ allowable average annual fare increases and corresponding earning targets are set by the BC Ferries Commissioner to cover the cost of ferry service, along with required maintenance and vessel, terminal and IT upgrades and replacements, as well as debt servicing.

The effects of COVID-19 have negatively impacted BC Ferries’ traffic and revenues over the current year. This trend is expected to continue in the near term as the province recovers from the effects of the pandemic.

In December 2020, BC Ferries received $308 million from the Safe Restart Program, a federal-provincial initiative intended to help provinces and territories safely restart their economies. Assistance to the public transportation sector, including BC Ferries, is a critical part of the BC Safe Restart Plan.

The goals of the federal-provincial Safe Restart funding are to mitigate BC Ferries’ revenue losses and additional COVID-19-related spending, help restore the level of annual earnings required to maintain service levels, and to keep fare increases to affordable levels through this performance term which ends March 31, 2024. Maintaining this level of earnings also supports the long-term sustainability, reliability and affordability of the ferry system and protects $380 million in essential vessel, terminal and IT investments over this year and next.

  • BC Ferries applied nine months’ worth of Safe Restart funding, or $154.8 million, to third quarter revenues. Without this relief, the net loss for the three months ended December 31, 2020 would have been $56.4 million.
  • As a result of the funding, BC Ferries recorded net earnings of $98.4 million for the three months ended December 31, 2020, compared to a net loss of $8.3 million in the same quarter in the prior year.
  • On a year-to-date basis, BC Ferries’ net earnings were $74.3 million to December 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.

The positive net earnings in the quarter and year-to-date reflect nine months of Safe Restart funding as well as the seasonal nature of the business whereby traffic in the busy spring and summer months provide earnings that are typically offset by losses in the slower fall and winter months.

“We would again like to acknowledge the important contribution from the federal and provincial governments to address the profound impact COVID-19 has had on transportation and on the ferry system,” said Mark Collins, BC Ferries’ President and CEO. “The Safe Restart funding will protect the long term sustainability of the ferry system to recover our losses and maintain service and future investments in ferry dependent communities.”

“Our valued employees continue to focus on our core business of delivering efficient service while protecting passengers who rely on us for essential travel,” said Collins. “I can’t thank our staff enough for their dedication and their work to keep our ships and terminals safe, while keeping communities connected during this difficult time.”

In the three months ended December 31, 2020, operating expenses decreased by $6.7 million or 3.3 per cent ($68.8 million or 10.6 per cent year-to-date) compared to the same period in the prior year, mainly due to reduced round trips on the major routes and the deferral of certain discretionary costs as a result of COVID-19. The expense reduction includes reduced labour costs, fuel consumption, contracted services, depreciation expense and other miscellaneous costs.

Capital expenditures in the three and nine-months ended December 31, 2020 totalled $41.5 million and $90.8 million, respectively, and were financed in part through net earnings during the nine months. Significant investments included the four Island Class vessels and one Salish Class vessel that were already under construction prior to the pandemic. Given the impact of COVID-19 on the company’s financial position, all capital plans are being reviewed to identify opportunities to defer any expenditures that are not regulatory, security or safety related, or operationally necessary.

BC Ferries’ full financial statements, including notes and Management’s Discussion and Analysis, are filed on SEDAR and will be available at www.sedar.com.

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Media Contact:
BC Ferries, Media Relations
Victoria: (250) 978-1267

Customer Contact:
Victoria: (250) 386-3431
Toll-free: 1-888-BCFERRY (1-888-223-3779)

Note to newsrooms: For urgent media inquiries off-hours, call our emergency line at (250) 516-7211.

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