Ferry hold-up hurting tourism across the region: Yarmouth mayor
The mayor of Yarmouth says the delay of the Yarmouth-to-Maine ferry service is hurting the tourism industry.
Pam Mood says the delay is taking a huge toll on tourism agencies across the Maritimes, though the Town of Yarmouth is working on a plan to help local businesses.
At the same time, she says she's no one person or agency is to blame for the delay.
“It's a multi-million dollar business, and it had to change direction, for many reasons,” says Yarmouth MayorPam Mood. “No one’s to blame. There's no fingers to point here. I'm certain that some folks will disagree with me, but it's not about pointing fingers, this is the right thing to do.”
Last Thursday, the province revealed the heavily subsidized ferry’s season is in jeopardy because of upgrades being made at the Bar Harbour terminal.
At the moment, the ferry is idling in Yarmouth.
“This takes a huge toll on the tourism operators, obviously, and the businesses, so it affects everyone from summer-job participants to gas stations, fixed-roof accommodations, everyone involved in the tourism agency, so it’s tremendously difficult on those folks,” Mood said. “It’s making a huge difference. I’ve had phone calls not only from across Nova Scotia, P.E.I., New Brunswick, so folks are affected, but they’re also excited to see that ferry service get up and running again.”
Last Thursday, Nova Scotia Business Minister Geoff MacLellan said there is still no definitive startup date from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which requires specific renovations to the terminal building in Bar Harbor, Maine, before putting agents in place to process ferry passengers.
MacLellan wasn't prepared to guarantee the ferry would sail at all in 2019. "Obviously we can't (say) until they give some kind of timeline in terms of how quick they can turn this over," he said. "So far, the communication from border services has been, 'As soon as we can.' "
Two weeks ago, the ferry's private operator, Bay Ferries, had said a season that was scheduled to begin at the end of June would commence "in the mid-summer" because of delays in satisfying security requirements in Bar Harbor.
On Tuesday, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection said there's a chance the ferry service linking Nova Scotia with Maine could salvage part of its delayed sailing season.
However, spokesman Michael McCarthy stressed it's up to Bay Ferries to ensure the terminal in Bar Harbor, Maine, is in compliance with the federal department's standards -- and that could take some time.
McCarthy says Bay Ferries was made aware that upgrading the terminal, which the company took over in February, could take between 12 and 18 months.
He says getting the terminal ready for operations is a top priority for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The heavily subsidized ferry service, which has shifted its U.S. destination from Portland, Maine, was supposed to start sailing between Yarmouth, N.S., and Bar Harbor on June 21 -- but the start date has been pushed back twice
Last week, Bay Ferries announced that all reservations prior to and including July 18 would be cancelled.
The province has committed an estimated $8.5-million to help with the renovation work in Bar Harbor and the ferry's operating subsidy for this year is $13.8-million. Bay Ferries moved its Maine port from Portland to Bar Harbor earlier this year, saying it would save in fuel costs because it's closer to Yarmouth.
With files from The Canadian Press.