Deer Island reeling after CBSA closes port of entry from Eastport, Maine, indefinitely

Some Deer Island, N.B., residents are reeling after the Canada Border Service Agency announced Thursday it's closing the local port of entry indefinitely because of the continuing lack of ferry service from Eastport, Maine.

Port of entry processed ferry traffic, but ferry service has not operated for past 2 years

The ferry service between Deer Island, N.B., and Eastport, Maine, has not operated for the past two summers. (CBC)

Some Deer Island, N.B., residents are reeling after the Canada Border Service Agency announced Thursday it's closing the local port of entry indefinitely because of the continuing lack of a ferry service from Eastport, Maine.

"I'm shocked," said Diane Bustin, manager of the 45th Parallel Motel and Restaurant on the Bay of Fundy island of about 1,000 people.

"I know that there's a lot of seasonal people and Deer Islanders that were counting on that ferry going back on," she said.

The Canada Border Services Agency is committed to using resources where and when they are needed most.- Calvin Christiansen, CBSA

Bustin also expects it to hurt island tourism.

"It's gotta hurt Eastport too," she said, noting many Deer Islanders would routinely walk on the ferry and make the crossing to visit and shop.

"It's sad, it's really sad."

The island's seasonal port of entry exclusively processed ferry traffic, but the ferry has not operated since the end of the 2014 season. As a result, the port of entry has been closed for two summers.

"The Canada Border Services Agency is committed to using resources where and when they are needed most, in order to facilitate trade and travel, and protect Canada's borders," Calvin Christiansen, regional director general for the agency in the Atlantic region, said in a statement.

Alternative route longer

Travellers who want to drive from Deer Island to Eastport can continue to use the alternative route — a 30-minute domestic ferry service between Deer Island and Campobello Island, followed by a 45-minute drive from Campobello to Eastport.

The Eastport route was "much quicker" and more convenient, said Bustin. The ferry, which ran from late June until mid-September, used to leave Deer Island on the hour between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. and Eastport on the half-hour between 9:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.

"I don`t know whether [CBSA] just figured that the Eastport ferry wasn't going to run anymore and they're just going to close it down," said Bustin. "I have no idea.

"I was under the impression that it was going to start [again] next year."

Ferry future uncertain

East Coast Ferries Ltd. officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The provincial government hired the privately owned and operated Deer Island company for its Kennebecasis Island-Summerville route in 2015.

East Coast Ferries had hoped to resume its Deer Island-Eastport ferry service this summer, according to a note posted on its website in 2016.

"We are sorry but there will be no run from Deer Island to Eastport this season but we are currently working on a plan for [the] 2017 season," it states.

"Sorry for any inconvenience and thank you for your understanding."

'Tremendous impact' on Eastport

The customs office in Eastport was also shut down when the ferry stopped but has not been decommissioned, said city manager Elaine Abbott.

"We were certainly hoping there would be a change of circumstance for next summer," she said.

Not having the ferry for the past two years has "had a tremendous impact" on tourism in the city of about 1,300 people, said Abbott.

"We certainly do miss the ferry," she said. "It brought a lot of foot traffic to our downtown. People would come over on the ferries and dine here and shop here."

The indefinite closure of the Deer Island port of entry came as a surprise, said Abbott.

"I find it a little disheartening for the future of the ferry's return," she said.

No one from the CBSA was able to immediately respond to questions about whether the port of entry would ever reopen if the ferry service resumes.

With files from Matthew Bingley