Nova Star ferry to get another $13M from government

The Nova Scotia government says it will spend another $13 million to bankroll the ferry service between Yarmouth and Portland, Maine, this year.

Michel Samson outlines government's plan to support ferry service in Yarmouth

The Nova Star used up a $21 million provincial fund intended to last seven years within the first months of its inaugural season. Since then, the province has put up another $7.5 million, including $2.5 million to berth the ferry in South Carolina for the winter. (STM Quest)

The Nova Scotia government says it will spend another $13 million to bankroll the ferry service between Yarmouth and Portland, Maine, this year.

Economic and Rural Development and Tourism Minister Michel Samson announced Wednesday in Yarmouth the government has signed a one-year contract with the operators of the Nova Star.

"We are confident that the $13-million subsidy is going to be more than adequate for the Nova Star to have a successful operating season," said Samson.

The province says, in the spring, it will issue a request for a proposal to operate the service for 2016.

Keith Condon, a Yarmouth businessman who had previously expressed an interest in taking over the ferry service, declined to comment Wednesday on whether he would put in a proposal.

"Hopefully, they've corrected some of the issues, so good luck to them. This is their day," he said.

This year the ferry will run from June 1 to Oct. 14 and begin its run in Maine. Nova Star says it will operate seven days a week and is offering what it calls "flexible pricing" in 2015 including discounts for travellers on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

The company says it will charge a one way fare of $94 for an adult. Return travellers will get a 10 per cent discount.

Nova Star officials are predicting 80,000 passengers in 2015.

"We believe this is going to be a good year and we're targeting 80,000 passengers and we feel that's a good goal," said Mark Amundsen, president and CEO of Nova Star Cruises.

During its inaugural season in 2014, the ferry carried 59,000 passengers. The province said those passengers spent $13 million in Nova Scotia.

In 2014, taxpayers spent $28.5 million on the Nova Star, including burning through a $21-million, seven-year subsidy during the first season.

Ferry service resumed last year after a four-year hiatus. The previous New Democratic government cancelled a provincial subsidy on the grounds it was too expensive. 

In a briefing Wednesday, government officials said the new agreement contains more measures to lower costs and provide more auditing.

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