It was mostly good news all around at the recent BC Ferries Annual General Meeting — traffic is up, new vessels were delivered and more are on order, terminals continue to be upgraded, and safety continues to mark year-over-year improvement. For new President and CEO Mark Collins’ first AGM in the leadership role, it wasn’t a bad way to start his tenure. “BC Ferries is about connecting communities,” he said to attendees. “It’s about knitting together the fabric of coastal British Columbia — to enable families to grow and communities to thrive.”
However, success usually comes with challenges and Collins noted a slight drop in on-time performance as the company deals with the increased volume. “We are in a strong position — both in its assets and management systems and labour relations — to be able to handle the upturn that we see today.” And while a drop in net earnings was posted — $17.3 million for the first quarter of the 2018 fiscal year versus $27 million a year prior — Collins took stock of the bigger financial picture, noting that in the last two and a half years, the company has held ticket prices stable, absorbed increased operating costs due to higher traffic and offered promotional discounts for customers.
Photo above: Queen of Oak Bay (Photo: BC Shipping News)
Indeed, a closer look at the activities of BC Ferries highlights just how significant those investments have been. Over $2.1 billion has been invested in the last 12 years and another $3 billion is planned for new vessels and upgraded infrastructure between now and 2026.
“For a company that strives to be a modern, 21st century mobility experience, having a ship that was built in the 1950s is a problem,” Collins told attendees at the AGM. “It simply does not meet the needs of our customers.” Collins is referring specifically to the North Island Princess built by Allied Shipyards in 1958 but there are eight other vessels not far behind it having been built in the 1960s and eight more that date back to the 1970s.
The average age of the fleet however is getting younger with every new vessel delivered and there are plans to replace another 14 vessels as part of their 12-year vessel replacement plan. Summarizing the investments in the fleet this past year: