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BC Ferries newest addition to the fleet, Coastal Celebration takes on it's first foot passengers as it officially began service on the Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route today after a ribbon-cutting ceremony with CEO David Hahn at the ferry terminal in Swatrtz Bay, BC on Friday, November 21, 2008.ARNOLD LIM

Newly-released documents show the earnings of BC Ferries CEO David Hahn more than quadrupled from 2003, when the corporation became semi-private, to 2009.

Documents released under a freedom of information request show Mr. Hahn was paid $228,239 when he was hired in 2003, but by last year his total earnings had soared to $984,248, although that was down from just over a million dollars the year before.

Mr. Hahn's total earnings include a bonus last year of $233,750 and a long-term incentive payment of $210,618.

The total earnings of BC Ferries' chief operating officer, Michael Corrigan, went up by more than four times during the same period, from $119,154 in 2003 to $536,566 last year.

There was a similar story for chief financial officer Robert Clark, whose earnings rose from $128,869 to $479,940.

The 2008-2009 earnings were released earlier, but the new documents show the steep increases in pay since 2003 when the B.C. government turned the former Crown corporation into a semi-private entity with the province as its largest shareholder.

Mr. Hahn came under fire when the salaries were first disclosed. Their earnings were about two times more than the money made by top executives at Crown-owned B.C. Hydro and the Insurance Corp. of B.C.

He defended the pay figures, saying the ferry service has been transformed into a reliable, efficient company with happier employees and satisfied customers.

In April, the government introduced legislation limiting annual salaries to levels more accustomed to public sector bureaucrats, as opposed to the benchmark of top executives at Coca-Cola, Nike and Ford. But the move sought only to cap the salary and benefits of future hires.

BC Ferries is among the largest ferry operators in the world, employing 4,200 people and carrying 21 million passengers on 36 vessels over 25 routes.