Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter says the province is getting ready to issue a request for proposals to see who might be interested in running a ferry service between Yarmouth and New England.

Dexter said officials have met with at least three people interested in re-establishing the link between the two regions with a ferry service, similar to the one that stopped running in 2010.

The fact that Europe's economy continues to falter may help in the search for a new ferry operator, said Dexter.

"In Europe there are actually boats that are available that might not have been on the market before. There are other people around who are looking for pieces of business and to develop new runs," he said Monday.

"It may seem like it but it's actually not the worst time to be out floating this kind of an RFP. People are looking for work and that includes ferry owners."

The CAT ferry, which started its run in 1997, was able to carry 900 passengers and 240 vehicles. It ran every day in the summer and five days a week in the spring and fall shoulder seasons between Yarmouth and Bar Harbor and Portland, Maine.

Bay Ferries Ltd. shut down the service in 2010 after the provincial government gave notice it would no longer provide $6 million in annual support.

Federal help needed, says Dexter

Many businesses struggled with the subsequent drop in tourism and the 65-room Rodd Colony Harbour Inn in Yarmouth closed its doors after 40 years of business, citing declining occupancy rates because of the loss of ferry traffic.

In September, Dexter pledged $21-million over seven years to help restart the ferry after an expert review panel released its findings on the viability of the service and said it could be successful if passenger traffic increased significantly.

The panel estimated the federal and provincial governments would have to cover between $30 million and $35 million to restore the terminal and cover start-up funds.

The premier, who met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper last week, said Monday he hoped the federal government could help by investing in the ferry terminal. Dexter would not disclose what Harper told him.

"I can only tell you what I said and I'm confident I conveyed accurately to the prime minister where the process is, where we saw the federal role," said Dexter.

"The prime minister's a veteran of these things so he holds things pretty close to his sweater vest."