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The BC Ferries Horseshoe Bay terminal sees plenty of activity on Oct. 1, 2012.Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

BC Ferries has been given approval to raise its fares by as much as 12 per cent over the next three years.

Approval from the independent regulator for the ferry service also comes with a target aimed at BC Ferries to find more than $54-million in efficiencies, including service cuts.

B.C. Ferry Commissioner Gord Macatee says the first fare increase of 4.1 per cent is set for April 1, 2013, followed by another four per cent increase in April 2014 and a 3.9 per cent increase in April 2015.

Macatee is responsible for setting and enforcing the fare cap, which also permits fares to rise and fall depending on fuel costs.

Last spring, the Liberal government passed the Coastal Ferry Act, which provides the company with $80-million to keep fares in line, but seeks $30-million in service cuts.

BC Ferries' year-end financial report included losses of more than $16-million, with vehicle traffic at a 13-year low and the fewest passengers in 21 years.

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