Are there any other ferry companies regulated by the Commission?
The Coastal Ferry Act applies generally to ferry operators, defined as entities which have been authorized to operate ferries on one or more routes under contracts with the Province. BC Ferries is currently the only ferry operator regulated under the Act.
In principle, the Province could make a separate, similar contract with another ferry operator for a designated route, defining it as regulated and coming under the jurisdiction of the Commission.
Additional or Alternative Service Providers
A second avenue for other ferry companies is to make a subcontract with, or obtain a franchise from, BC Ferries to provide service on one of its 25 routes. Section 69 of the Act requires that in each performance term, BC Ferries must seek (but not necessarily engage) such additional or alternative service providers (ASPs). The Act also obliges the Commission to encourage BC Ferries to do so through fair and open competitive processes in an effort to reduce the costs of providing those services.
In addition, BC Ferries has to prepare a plan in each performance term explaining how it intends to seek ASPs. It must provide that plan to the Commission. If the Commissioner considers BC Ferries has failed to comply with these requirements, he can adjust price caps to reflect that failure or order BC Ferries to comply.
For a history of milestones and key developments in BC Ferries’ search for ASPs, click here.
A third avenue for other ferry operators is to serve on an unregulated route. BC Ferries is responsible for negotiating and administering contracts-for-service with independent operators on eight unregulated routes which do not come under the Commission’s jurisdiction (e.g: Bamfield-Barkley Sound-Port Alberni). Under the Coastal Ferry Services Contract, the Province provides funding to BC Ferries of $1.7 million per year flow-through for private operators for the first performance term.
No ferry operator is restricted from providing ferry service without a contract from the Province. A major challenge for such an operator is to secure suitable terminals, especially if the operator intends to carry vehicles or freight which may require costly docks and ramps, back-up lands for parking and storage, and highway access. BC Ferries is not obliged to share its terminals, which are leased from the Province as owner, with other ferry operators.