The company that operates the ferry service between Nova Scotia and Maine is re-examining some familiar territory.
Bay Ferries, which operates The Cat high-speed ferry, has made enquiries to town council in Bar Harbor, Maine, about potential use of its ferry terminal. Company president Mark MacDonald described it as "a long-term examination" and said it's a matter of considering what is best for the business and what can be done at the lowest possible cost.
"There's nothing new in what we're doing here," he said.
What is new is clarification about the ownership of the ferry terminal in Bar Harbor, as well as work to upgrade its condition. Those two things brought the location back on the radar for Bay Ferries, said MacDonald.
For the last two years, Bay Ferries has run The Cat back and forth from Yarmouth to Portland, Maine. MacDonald said Portland is "a great place" and a good partner, but there are also challenges with the location. One of the concerns is limited space along the waterfront and a growing cruise ship industry, which isn't always seen as compatible with ferry service.
"We love Portland and it's been great operating there and we expect we will be for the short-term future at least, but we always have to look at what are the other possibilities and they understand that," said MacDonald.
He said he's been open about that approach with Portland, as well as Bar Harbor.
Two years into a 10-year deal with the province, Bay Ferries has seen its passenger numbers increase and MacDonald said he's optimistic about future years.
However, the service has not been without its challenges. Engine problems this season resulted in the cancellation of almost 25 per cent of the runs, resulting in slower-than-hoped-for growth. Work to repair the engine, at the expense of the manufacturer, is underway now and expected to take until sometime in March.
Transportation Minister Lloyd Hines reaffirmed his support for the service and Bay Ferries last month.
Location could change, schedule wouldn't
MacDonald said it's too early to say what the company might do, and that includes whether The Cat could run from Yarmouth to both Maine locations in the same season. There is precedent for that approach, which Bay Ferries did with a former version of The Cat in the wake of the cancellation of the Scotia Prince service in 2005.
But MacDonald conceded it can be confusing for customers.
One thing that wouldn't change, regardless of where The Cat travels, is the schedule. MacDonald said he believes the schedule, which sees the ferry leaving Yarmouth in the morning and returning in the evening, is the right one and would be used regardless of the port in Maine.
No one from town council in Bar Harbor could be reached for comment on Monday.