Nova Scotia and STM Quest have signed a deal to support a new cruise ferry from Yarmouth to Maine.

The service will begin in May 2014, the province said Tuesday afternoon. 

"Having a signed agreement between the province and company is an important milestone a lot of people have been waiting for. There is a lot of work still to do, and I encourage everyone to push forward to get a boat in the water next spring," said Michel Samson, Minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism.

He said his government has a signed copy of the agreement and the company has committed to starting the service in May. 

A tentative deal to resume the ferry link was announced in September by the previous New Democrat government, nearly four years after it scrapped a subsidy for the money-losing service.

Business operators celebrate

Pam Mood, the mayor of Yarmouth, said it was great news for the region. 

"I couldn't be happier," she said Tuesday. "The people and business operators from our town and around the region are ramping up now, poised to make the most of the new ferry service once it arrives."

Under the deal, Nova Scotia will provide $21 million to the company over seven years, including $10.5 million toward start-up costs and $1.5 million each year for marketing.

The ferry will be called Nova Star and STM Quest expects it to carry 100,000 passengers in the first year of operation. 

Before the service starts, the province and STM Quest must complete several tasks:

  • Get border services in place in both ports.
  • Upgrade the Yarmouth terminal.
  • Sign berthing agreements with both ports.
  • Secure licenses and permits for the service.

The Nova Scotia Tourism Agency is meeting with STM Quest to develop a tourism strategy around the new route. 

The Nova Star will leave Portland each evening at 8 p.m. EST and arrive in Yarmouth at 7 a.m. AST the next day. It will leave Yarmouth at about 9 a.m. and arrive back in Portland at 5 p.m. EST.