About BC Ferries

What is BC Ferries?

British Columbia Ferry Services Inc. or BC Ferries is a self-financing company with a mandate to widen travel choices for users and to improve the quality of services.

BC Ferries offers ferry service under a service contract with the Province of BC. Through this contract, the government pays BC Ferries a defined annual subsidy or “service fee” in return for making specified numbers of ferry sailings on specified routes, with a maximum total value of about $106 million per year. The major routes (three routes between Vancouver Island and the BC Lower Mainland) are self-supporting and receive no service fee from provincial taxpayer funds. The terms of this long-term contract are currently being reviewed for the third performance term beginning April 1, 2012 and thereafter every four years. For a copy of the contract, click here.

Where does BC Ferries Operate?

BC Ferries’ services link Vancouver Island to the mainland of British Columbia, and also connect many isolated coastal communities to either Vancouver Island or the mainland (see diagrams below).

The company also runs ferry service from Prince Rupert, on the north coast of the province, to the Queen Charlotte Islands, and to Port Hardy on the northern end of Vancouver Island. In addition, the Discovery Coast Passage offers summer service between Port Hardy and Bella Coola on the central coast, with additional ports of call en route (see below).

How did BC Ferries evolve?

A historical evolution of BC Ferries can be divided into three phases:

  • Up to 1960, which is the period preceding government operations
  • From 1960 to 2003, when the province operated the ferry system either directly through the then Ministry of Highways or through a Crown corporation
  • From 2003 onwards, when the status of BC Ferries was changed under an arrangement which can be described as “publicly owned but private-functioning.”