Nova Scotia

Portland, Maine seeks navy ship for Yarmouth ferry

The Portland, Maine government has asked a senator for help finding an old vessel to salvage the Yarmouth ferry.

Bay Ferries Ltd. must buy a ferry before the 2016 season

Nova Star Cruises is out as the operator of the Yarmouth ferry. Former operator Bay Ferries Ltd. has taken over. (Angela MacIvor/CBC)

The Portland government has asked a senator for help finding an old navy vessel to salvage the Yarmouth ferry.

Bay Ferries Ltd. was chosen by the Nova Scotia government in October to take over the route — but it doesn't have a ferry.

In a statement to CBC News, Senator Angus King said he was approached last fall by Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling to start talks with the U.S. Navy about possibly acquiring a navy vessel. 

Not having a ferry in place puts the tourism industry in both cities in jeopardy, Strimling said in a letter to King Jan. 29

"We know that you are working hard to assist in securing a vessel," Strimling said in the letter to King.

"We very much appreciate the effort you are making. If the effort is successful, it will bring very significant benefits to our state and the Portland area."

'Significant economic driver'

In the statement Thursday, King called the ferry "a significant economic driver."

"I will do all that I can to help," King said, "including advocating on the city's behalf to the U.S. Navy to explore vessels that could be put toward that use."

Bay Ferries Ltd., the operator of the ferry before Nova Star took over, declined an interview request Thursday. Contract negotiations with the Nova Scotia government have stalled due to the delay finding a ferry to buy.

"We are limited in what we can say on the status of our search for because of the risk that it would jeopardize our company's ability to get the best ship in place," CEO Mark MacDonald said in a statement. 

Lack of ferry stalls tourism

Wednesday a tour operator cancelled dozens of room reservations in Yarmouth over concerns the ferry wouldn't run without a boat.

Nova Scotia Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan responded by saying he had "no doubt" the 2016 ferry season would go ahead. He said buying a ferry is a "complicated process."

Previous operator Nova Star Cruises struggled to pay suppliers, despite receiving $39.4 million from Nova Scotia taxpayers over two years. How much subsidy Bay Ferries will receive has yet to be determined.

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Clarifications

  • An updated version of this story clarifies that Senator Angus King said he was approached last fall by Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling about acquiring a navy vessel.
    Feb 06, 2016 11:47 AM AT

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