Future of Saint John-Digby ferry adrift

The future of the Saint John-Digby ferry is unclear now that Nova Scotia plans to resume the Yarmouth-Maine ferry service.

Princess of Acadia's long-term viability unclear due to plans to resume Yarmouth-Maine service

News of Nova Scotia's plans to resume a ferry service between Yarmouth and Maine has some people wondering what that will mean for the Saint John-Digby ferry service.

The Princess of Acadia ferry is important to businesses in Saint John and some people, like Gilbert Comeau, are worried.

Comeau, a commercial trucker who has used the ferry to ship fish from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia for the past 25 years, hopes the service will continue.

"I can't see it sustainable having two boats," he said.

Transport Canada, which owns the MV Princess of Acadia, says it's too soon to comment on the long-term viability of both ferries.

Officials are currently in discussions with the New Brunswick and Nova Scotia governments about the future of the year-round service, said spokesperson Kelly James.

The federal government has set aside $60 million to replace the 42-year-old Princess of Acadia with a newer model next year.

It may not be a new ferry, but it will be newer, more efficient and will ensure continuous service for decades to come, officials said. It will also be equipped with new amenities and features, they said.

Yarmouth service to launch in 2014

Details about the Yarmouth ferry are still being ironed out, but it's expected to be a fast ferry, operated by a private company.

Earlier this week, the Nova Scotia government announced STM Quest Inc. is the approved bidder to bring back the ferry service between southwestern Nova Scotia and Maine.

The service is expected to launch next year.

Bay Ferries Ltd. used to operate the CAT service between Yarmouth and Bar Harbour and still runs the crossings between Digby and Saint John and the ferries between Nova Scotia and P.E.I.

The company announced in December 2009 that it would cancel the money-losing CAT service after the Nova Scotia government said it could no longer provide an annual $6-million subsidy.

The Nova Scotia government faced sharp criticism for killing the ferry subsidies and is now offering $21 million over seven years to restart the service.

The Princess of Acadia is capable of carrying more than 150 cars and 33 tractor trailers.