N.S. cancels Yarmouth to Maine ferry for 2021 season
HALIFAX -- For the second straight year, the ferry service connecting Yarmouth, N.S. to Maine will be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a release issued Monday, Nova Scotia confirmed that the ferry run by Bay Ferries Ltd. will not operate during the 2021 season, which was scheduled from May to October.
"It is a disappointing decision to have to make, but given the ongoing uncertainty, it is really the only choice we have. We must keep Nova Scotians safe," said Lloyd Hines, Nova Scotia’s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, in a statement.
"The province remains committed to this service in the long term. It will resume when circumstances allow. Many Nova Scotians invest time, effort and money based on this ferry service, and many highly skilled people work on it. We are appreciative of their service and effort and know they will understand the circumstances.''
One reason cited for the ferry cancellation is the border between the U.S. and Canada being closed to unrestricted, non-essential travel for the foreseeable future.
The province also says ‘a critical percentage of the general population is not expected to be vaccinated until summer.’
“Making the decision now will help reduce costs in areas such as marketing, hiring additional ship and terminal crew, and moving The Cat ferry to Yarmouth,” says the release from the province.
"It is absolutely the right decision. The health and safety of our citizens is the most important thing as we continue to manoeuvre our way through the pandemic,” adds Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood.
According to the Nova Scotia government, on average, visitors who use the ferry each contribute $2,200 in tourism revenue.
"It's really disappointing to not have the ferry this year. It's really expected though based on the situation in the United States and the fact that leisure travel is not an option this year," said Neil Mackenzie, Yarmouth and Acadian Shores Tourism Association.
NS PC Leader Tim Houston says taxpayers are once again on the hook for millions of dollars even though the ferry didn’t carry any passengers.
"It's actually never had a full season. I mean from problems with the vessel to problems with the ports to just pumping taxpayer money into this and the reason it's a stupid deal is there was never really any obligation on behalf of the operator provide the service," said Houston. "It's been three years in a row it hasn't sailed. It's just a terrible situation when you think about all the people in the hospitality industry, in the service industry, tourism industry in general, they're not getting paid for not having customers but yet this operator continues to get paid."
The problem-plagued ferry cost provincial taxpayers an extra $4 million as it also sat idle for the entire 2019 sailing season, after Bay Ferries was unable to complete construction work at the terminal to meet U.S. Customs and Border Protection specifications. The work was necessary after the company moved its U.S entry point from Portland, Maine, where the ferry had operated for five years.
The ferry last ran in July of 2018, when crossings were suspended due to work at the terminal in Bar Harbor.
The province has a long-term contract for the ferry service through the 2025 operating season.