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Agreement Reached to Revive Maine to Nova Scotia Ferry Service
11/12/2013   Reported By: Keith Shortall

After an absence of about four years, regular ferry service between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, could resume this spring. The province of Nova Scotia today announced an agreement reached with a cruise ferry company to revive the service, which will operate under the brand name Nova Star Cruises. As Keith Shortall reports, daily trips between the two cities could begin as early as May.

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Originally Aired: 11/12/2013 5:30 PM

Ferry service between Portland and Yarmouth came to a halt in 2009, when the Canadian government scrapped its subsidies, and operators of the high-speed ferry known as the Cat pulled out.

At a press conference in Halifax Tuesday, provincial officials announced that they have signed an agreement with STM Quest Inc, to resume service from May to November.

"Today we begin to reverse one of the most damaging economic decisions made by the previous government in abruptly terminating the Yarmouth ferry service," said Michel Samson, the minister of economic and rural development and tourism.

Samson joined Natural Resources Minister Zach Churchill in pledging the province's support for the new service, which Churchill describes as an important piece of the region's economic puzzle.

"It is an important piece of the puzzle, because we're the closest link - the closest port - to one of the largest tourism markets in the world," Churchill said. "And it's silly for the province to not take advantage of that and reach out to that market and try to get people here."

Under the terms of the agreement, the province of Nova Scotia will provide $21 million to the ferry company over seven years, including $10.5 million for start-up costs, with $1.5 million each year for marketing. And marketing, says Churchill, will be critical.

"There's going to challenges associated with this," Churchill says. "We're starting again from scratch in developing that market. We haven't had a ferry in over four years now, and we have to rebuild that market."

There's also some building that needs to happen in Yarmouth, which will upgrade its terminal facility, and on board the ship, which will be outfitted with a theater and casino before it makes its first trip between the two ports.

"Well, it's great news," says Portland Economic Develepment Director Greg Mitchell. Michell says the city will have to reach its own separate agreement with the ferry's operators, but already has the infrastructure in place to handle the service. He says the new business model for the service is more sustainable than was the ill-fated Cat, which was fast, but inefficient.

"The service provided back when it was discontinued in 2009 was a high-speed ferry, it was very expensive to operate, very high fuel usage," Mitchell says. "This is a different experience. It's more of an excursion exprience with higher amenity level of service. And there will also be some commercial freight mixed in. So it will be - I like to think - a more balanced approach."

The new ship will be slower than the Cat, which could make the crossing from Yarmouth to Portland in just over five hours. The 528-foot Nova Star will make the trip in about nine hours, leaving Yarmouth at 9 a.m. local time, and arriving in Portland at 5 p.m. Eastern Standard time. The return trip will depart Portland at 8 p.m., and arrive in Yarmouth at 7 a.m. Atlantic time.

The company says it's still working on how much to charge passengers for the trip. Nova Star Cruises estimates that it will carry more than 100,000 passengers in its first year of operation, which Mitchell says would essentially double Portland's existing annual cruise passenger visitor totals.

The news conference audio for this story provided courtesy of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.


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