New Nova Scotia-Maine ferry contract near

The provincial government of Nova Scotia said it is close to a deal that would return Bay Ferries Ltd. as the operator for passenger and vehicle service between Yarmouth, N.S., and Maine ports, replacing the troubled Nova Star Cruises Ltd.

Using a government subsidy that was set at $13 million for 2015, Nova Star was unable to meet passenger targets over two years, despite reporting a 10% increase for June and July of this year. This week, officials announced they are favoring a new operator – Bay Ferries Ltd., who had operated The Cat high speed catamaran ferry between Yarmouth, Bar Harbor and Portland until 2009 when the provincial government said it could no longer afford to provide a subsidy.

Now Bay Ferries, a company majority owned by CEO Mark MacDonald, looks to be back in the helm seat.

“Staff have been in discussions with Bay Ferries Limited and we are now ready to officially enter into negotiations on contract details,” Geoff MacLellan, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, said Thursday, two weeks after the conclusion of the 2015 ferry service season.

“Bay Ferries Limited has the experience, expertise, industry relationships and much of the operational infrastructure already in place, such as a reservations system, that would allow them to hit the ground running. There will be a service out of Yarmouth for 2016.” Four proposals were submitted to operate the Yarmouth services, and government officials said they looked at marketing and financial plans along with industry experience.

The 528’x85’x9’ Nova Star entered service in 2014 and was rated to carry 711 passengers (maximum 1,215) and up to 336 cars at 21 knots, boasting fin stabilizers for passenger comfort and two 1,500 kW bow thrusters for maneuvering in Yarmouth’s tight harbor. Built specifically for the Gulf of Maine route by Singapore Shipbuilding Technologies, the vessel launched in 2013 with high hopes for success.

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Ashley Herriman

Ashley Herriman is WorkBoat's online editor.

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