BC Ferries vows to be more 'people centred' as vehicle traffic spikes in Q1

BC Ferries released its Q1 results on Thursday, noting the company’s highest ever vehicle-traffic levels during the first three months of 2022.

But as the corporation held its annual general meeting (where Q1 results were released), officials added that other issues forced the corporation to still go through with the sudden firing of CEO Mark Collins, who was officially terminated in July.

During the meeting, B.C. Ferry Services board chair Joy MacPhail suggested the executive-level shuffle was due to a need to move towards a more “people-centred” culture. BC Ferries is currently in the midst of dealing with a number of grievances from its workers’ union, including one case debating the legality and merits of the company putting more than 100 workers on unpaid leave due to a federal COVID vaccine mandate last October.

According to new data, BC Ferries saw 2,449,798 vehicles on its sailings in Q1 this year, up 42% from the same period in 2021 (1,720,848). Passenger traffic also rose by 74% to levels almost equal to pre-pandemic numbers, officials said.

However, staffing continues to be an issue plaguing the company. At least one more sailing between Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island was scrapped today due to a lack of staff operating the vessels. Interim president and CEO Jill Sharland – who replaced Collins – said BC Ferries had hired more than 800 new workers before the summer to deal with the crunch.

Meanwhile, the company is undertaking a “robust and professional” search for a new permanent CEO, MacPhail said.

The lifting of travel restrictions has meant a spike in passenger and car traffic this summer. BC Ferries said car traffic numbers so far in the summer months has been 2% higher than the pre-pandemic level recorded in 2019.

As traffic has risen, staffing challenges stemming from COVID continue to increase, as well. Pre-pandemic, BC Ferries averaged 150 workers who booked off work on any given day due to things like illness or injury.

That number has surged to 600 this June, Collins said in a previous report.