Yarmouth ferry hits snag ahead of May 1 launch
STM Quest failed to file application with U.S. Federal Maritime Commission
It's looking less and less likely the ferry between Yarmouth and Portland, Maine, will be up and running by May 1.
STM Quest, the company that won the bid to run the service, is still waiting for the Federal Maritime Commission in the United States to approve its application to travel between Canada and the U.S. — an application neither STM Quest nor the Nova Scotia government even knew about.
Expectations on the south shore are high for the spring tourism season, with businesses hoping to cash in on American tourists travelling from Maine.
But less than two months from the Nova Star's launch date, tourists still can't buy ferry tickets.
STM Quest has to submit an application to U.S. authorities proving it has enough funds to reimburse customers if the service is cancelled. That application takes 60 days to process, meaning it would have to have been completed earlier this week.
Nova Star spokesperson Sean Lewis said that the application has not been submitted.
"They have approved our draft application documents and it’s our understanding they will make every effort to expedite the approvals process," he said.
Karen Gregory, the secretary of the Federal Maritime Commission, confirmed sometimes applications are processed in well under 60 days.
But Lewis admits they didn't even know this was part of the process until they were contacted by U.S. authorities and told to take their prices off their website.
"There's a lot of approvals that are required and once we were contacted and made aware of this requirement all the steps were taken to satisfy the requirements," he said.
'Not in the business of running international ferries'
Michel Samson, Minister of Economic and rural development and tourism, said the province didn't know about this either.
"The Nova Scotia government is not in the business of running international ferries, we never have been. So for us to say, 'They should have known' would be on the basis that we had knowledge of this — we didn't," he said.
Samson is hopeful the service will be available May 1, even though it gives passengers little time to make plans and buy tickets.
"We knew there would be challenges along the way. We're witnessing those challenges right now," he said.
Once the application has been submitted and approved, STM Quest will be able to post their prices, sell tickets and start operating a ferry service.
The ferry itself is still in Singapore. STM Quest says the ferry should depart for Nova Scotia sometime next week.
Nova Star is a joint venture between Quest Navigation in Maine and the builder of the ship in Asia. The ferry can carry 1,200 passengers and includes restaurants and a casino.
The provincial government is spending $21 million over seven years to restart the service.