Nova Scotia

Nova Star passenger numbers see 13.5% decrease in 2015

The province says about 51,000 passengers used the Nova Star ferry service this year, a decrease of about 13.5 per cent compared to last year, and well short of the operator's goal of 80,000.

Yarmouth ferry service welcomes 51,000 on board, but had aimed for 80,000

Roughly 51,000 passengers rode the Nova Star ferry this season. (Communications Nova Scotia)

The province says about 51,000 passengers used the Nova Star ferry service this year, a decrease of about 13.5 per cent compared to last year, and well short of the operator's goal of 80,000.

Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan says the province is waiting on detailed passenger counts and financial information from Nova Star Cruises and expects to get final numbers this week.

But now that the ferry's season has ended, the passenger count of 51,038 for 2015 shows a decrease from the 59,018 that rode the Nova Star last year between Yarmouth and Portland, Maine.

MacLellan said the government is reviewing the information and will decide whether Nova Star can tap into the final $1.9 million of assistance it requested early this month.

"It's going to be our decision based on what they provide in terms of data and information on the revenue side and the cost side," he said.

In February, the province committed to providing a subsidy of up to $13 million this year for the beleaguered ferry service. Last year, the province spent $28.5 million.

Operator decision to be made before end of year

A decision has yet to be made about whether Nova Star Cruises will be the ferry operator for the 2016 season.

"It would be misleading to suggest that the history and the relationship we've had this year doesn't certainly cause concern for me personally," said MacLellan.

Earlier this summer, the minister expressed frustration with the company for not providing the province with key financial and spending reports.

Besides Nova Star Cruises, three other companies are in the running to operate the ferry next year. MacLellan said a decision will be made before the end of the year, but stressed the importance of getting it right.

Asked if the province was getting value for the money it is spending on the ferry, MacLellan would not answer the question.

"We have to get it down to a subsidy that makes sense," he said.

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