The federal government has agreed to purchase a ferry for the Bay of Fundy service between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia at a cost of $44.6 million.

The 14-year-old MV Blue Star Ishtaki, purchased from a private ferry operator in Greece, is expected to replace the 44-year-old MV Princess of Acadia in 2015 after the vessel is modified to meet Canadian safety standards.

Bay Ferries Ltd. operates the year-round service between Saint John and Digby.

Reliability has increasingly been an issue for the Princess of Acadia, which is currently out of service for repairs on its bow thrusters.

Tourism officials say the purchase sends an important signal that the Bay of Fundy service has a long-term future.

“We know that many visitors like to go aboard just for the experience of being on a ferry. It’s something very unique that you can do in the Bay of Fundy,” says Ross Jefferson of Discover Saint John. “It benefits the region on this side of the Bay, but also the region over towards Digby and the southern shore of Nova Scotia.”

The ferry will have to be modified for the run between Digby and Saint John. A service date has yet to be announced but the ferry is expected to arrive sometime next year.

The announcement comes at a time when questions are being raised about other ferry services in Maritimes, such as the Nova Star ferry which runs between Yarmouth Portland.

“It’s important to note that the ferry will be there. We’ve had some issues with the Portland-to-Yarmouth ferry. There’s questions about whether it will be there next year and how long it will last,” says Ralph Holyoke, an innkeeper in Saint John.

“It’s important the government is investing some money in this to make it work to keep the traffic coming this way to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.”

Ottawa estimates the replacement ferry will be able to operate for another 20 years.

The Princess of Acadia is expected to be back in service Nov. 6.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Mike Cameron and The Canadian Press