Nova Star must prove itself to Nova Scotia taxpayers
The province will decide by mid summer whether to renew Nova Star contract
The CBC's Angela MacIvor was aboard the Nova Star ferry with Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan this week on his trip to Maine to talk about ferry funding.
The Nova Star has one month to prove itself to the Nova Scotia government, according to the minister of transportation.
Geoff MacLellan said he's walking off the Nova Star, feeling good about the service. However, he makes it clear — the numbers are what really matter.
"We have to shrink that level of subsidy," MacLellan said. "The break-even is the point when we can step away and say, 'Our investments are infrastructure, our investments are in marketing — not in the operations of a boat.'"
MacLellan says a decision will be made by the end of July or early August.
The province has already met with three companies interested in taking over the service.
The June passenger numbers have already surpassed their monthly goal, Mark Amundsen, president and CEO of Nova Star Cruises, said.
If this early trend continues, Nova Star will exceed its 80,000-passenger target for the year, he said, adding bookings for July look better as well.
"Between June 25 and July 5, we'll have 17 motorcoaches coming through, going up to the province of Nova Scotia. Last year, we had one," Amundsen said.
Amundsen remains confident his company can convince Nova Scotia to stay on board.
"We understand that the province of Nova Scotia is doing their due diligence to make sure they have the best business plan, the best value for Nova Scotia. We understand that. We believe we have the best investment and the right business plan for Nova Scotia," he said.
Minister surprised by Maine's support
After meeting with the governor of Maine, the mayor of Portland and several key tourism officials, MacLellan was impressed.
"I've learned that the level of interest and concern for the Yarmouth ferry and the continuation of this service is very apparent, both in Portland and at the state," he said.
"That was something that I thought would exist to a certain measure, but I was really taken aback by the fact these officials and the elected representatives really want this to succeed."
To date, Maine has spent $20 million on upgrades to the port used by Nova Star. The city of Portland spent an additional $250,000 this year.
Nova Scotia has committed more than $40 million in subsidies directly to the Nova Star.