HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia's transportation minister says the coming weeks will be key to determining the future of the company operating the ferry between Yarmouth and Maine.

Geoff MacLellan says the province will be looking closely at bookings and revenue from Nova Star Cruises during the peak season before making a decision on whether to continue with the operator in 2016.

"The next few weeks now will be very critical," MacLellan told reporters Thursday.

"We have to transfer from projections on what this season is going to look like, to the actual bookings through till the fall."

MacLellan also says his department has met with three separate groups who have expressed interest in taking over the ferry service if needed, but no formal proposals will be heard unless the province decides to part ways with Nova Star.

"They're in a holding position until we figure out what's happening," he said.

"At the end of the day we really can't make any commitments or give them further information until we know what's happening with the current operator."

After bringing 59,000 tourists to Nova Scotia last year the money-losing service has set an overall goal of 80,000 passengers for this season, which began June 1.

In May, Nova Star Cruises said pre-booked passenger sales for June were up from a disappointing opening year in 2014.

The provincial government is providing $13 million in funding this year after spending $28.5 million to subsidize the ferry last season.

MacLellan is planning to meet with Maine Gov. Paul LePage on June 25 to determine where he stands on assistance for the ferry service.