Decision soon on potential port switch for Nova Scotia-Maine ferry
The CAT, a high-speed passenger ferry, departs Yarmouth, N.S. heading to Portland, Maine on its first scheduled trip on Wednesday, June 15, 2016. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan)
HALIFAX -- The operator of the government-subsidized ferry connecting Nova Scotia to Maine says a decision is coming soon on a possible move of its U.S. landing port.
Bay Ferries says it's looking at relocating from Portland to Bar Harbor and is waiting to hear from the town on whether it wants to enter into a lease for a portion of the existing ferry terminal property.
The company says officials in Bar Harbor will likely make a final determination on Tuesday.
Bay Ferries says a number of factors are at play, including fuel prices, the shorter trip from Yarmouth, N.S., to Bar Harbor, and the continued availability of the Portland ferry terminal.
The company says it has the option of extending its Portland lease for another season, but that ends on Nov. 15.
It also requires a commitment on the construction of a new U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility at the site, something that would cost upwards of $8 million.
The company says discussions are ongoing with U.S. customs officials about the facilities required for Bar Harbor and it has hired an architect and several engineering consultants to assess the cost of the work required to move ports.
"Throughout this consideration of Bar Harbor, which originated in the summer of 2017, the province and Bay Ferries engaged in full and ongoing communication as to all aspects of this potential project," Bay Ferries said in a news release Friday.
"Ultimately it will require a positive decision of all the parties ... taking all factors into consideration for the project to proceed."
Bay Ferries submitted the proposal to the town of Bar Harbor in July, a month after the town voted to purchase the shuttered ferry terminal from the state for $3.5 million.
Before 2009, the ferry service between Nova Scotia and Maine operated out of both Portland and Bar Harbor. A cut to the service's operating subsidy prompted Bay Ferries to end the service in 2009.
After the subsidy was reinstated, the passenger ferry service resumed under Nova Star Cruises in 2014, travelling between Yarmouth and Portland before Bay Ferries took over the route in 2016.
Bay Ferries said it carried 50,185 passengers this season, which ended last Monday. It said the figure represents a 21 per cent increase over the 2017 season.
The province has provided $32 million in subsidies since the ferry service resumed in 2015.
In an email, Transport Department spokeswoman Marla MacInnis said it's too early to say what the final subsidy will be for 2018.
MacInnis said with regards to Bar Harbor, the province understands that a long-term lease is necessary to ensure a stable service.
"Government is committed to the long-term stability of this service and recognizes the importance to our tourism operators as they seek to make plans and bookings further out than one year at a time," she said. "That being said, ongoing discussions are still taking place and no final decisions have been made at this point."