Seven companies are expressing interest in operating a new ferry service from Yarmouth to Maine to replace the now defunct CAT high-speed ferry, says the head of the Port of Yarmouth.

Dave Whiting said Thursday there's still time to work out details of what it would cost a ferry company to use the federally owned terminal next year.

Most of the companies are confident they can make money, he said, without a provincial or federal subsidy.

"Well, that's the indication from the majority of them. But we have yet to see written business plans or anything else about their operations," Whiting said.

"We can't do that until we can provide them with some information on what the costs are going to be here in Yarmouth."

He said the existing ferry terminal needs upgrades, but he doesn't know how much that would cost.

Whiting said he'd like an agreement by September; otherwise it will be too late to have a ferry running in time for the 2011 tourism season.

"I'm confident we will have some type of a service in here by 2011," he said.

Whiting met with federal officials in Halifax Wednesday to discuss the future of the ferry and ownership of the terminal.

Any new ferry service will likely operate a conventional type of ship, Whiting said. High-speed service like the CAT offered is just not practical, he said.

The provincial government ended its subsidy of the CAT service, earlier this year. The ferry made its final run to Bar Harbour on April 16.

Bay Ferries Ltd. had wanted at least $6 million from the government in 2010 to keep the CAT ferry running between Yarmouth and the Maine cities of Bar Harbor and Portland.

The ferry between Yarmouth and Maine began in 1997. The Nova Scotia government gave $18.9 million to the ferry service since the fall of 2007.