The Government of Nova Scotia has issued a request for proposals for a new ferry, connecting southwest Nova Scotia with a port in the United States.

Economic and Rural Development Minister Percy Paris said he expects there will be interest in the project.

"With what's going on right now globally, that there's still a recession going on in Europe, there's still parts of the world that are having financial trouble," he said. "So I would like to think that there are some ferry operators out there that would be looking for work."

The government will invest up to $21 million over seven years. Paris said they'll only entertain realistic proposals.

"We're willing to make an investment for a period of time. But whatever that investment is, it's got to be in the best interest of taxpayers and it's got to prove that it's going to be viable and sustainable in the long run."

Different service

An expert panel recommended a ferry with cruise-ship style appointments, including casino and restaurant options.

The last service, the CAT ferry, stopped running in 2010 after the same NDP government pulled its subsidy. Paris said a new approach is needed because the CAT was nearly empty and the government was covering losses.

The government is also making it clear that a new ferry will require an upgraded terminal and border services in Yarmouth — and those elements are not the responsibility of the province.

Premier Darrell Dexter said recently that the government has already met with at least three people interested in re-establishing the link.

Companies have until January 24 to submit their bids. Each bid requires a $50,000 dollar deposit.

With files from Ryan Pierce