PORTLAND, Maine — Whether ferry service continues between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, depends on whether officials in the Canadian province and Nova Star’s operators can strike a successor deal to the $21 million subsidy the service spent last year.
The Chronicle Herald reported the province’s economic development and tourism minister, Michel Samson, said the company that operates the Nova Star, which completed its first season in 2014, and the government do not have a contract for the next season but that the province has not considered other operators for the service.
At least one other operator was hoping to win the attention of the province and restart a ferry service more akin to Nova Star forebear, the Scotia Prince.
Bruce McNeil, leading the effort for Canamerica Cruises to pick up the route, said the statements Thursday confirm his company is not in the running for the service this year, but he said the company’s still providing the province an alternative to consider in later years.
Discussions between the Nova Star’s operators and provincial officials come after an independent review of the service by the firm KPMG, which Samson said officials are examining and hoping to release “very shortly.”
When the province signed a deal with the company, it expected the $21 million subsidy to cover startup costs and marketing for seven years of operation, getting the service to a point where it could sustain itself.
The service required that and $5 million more to clear its financial obligations for the first season. Its operators also intended to secure a winter route for the ship in a warmer southern climate to generate revenue in advance of the 2015 sailing season, but that has not come to pass and the ship remains docked in Shelburne, Nova Scotia.
The ship was docked in Yarmouth and scheduled to arrive in Fort Pierce, Florida, when operators changed the destination to Shelburne, which spokesman Dennis Bailey said at the time was “to accommodate advances in discussions to secure a winter route for this season.”
The Herald reported Thursday that the service is booking bus tours but not taking bookings from individual passengers for the next season.