Nova Scotia

STM Quest wins Yarmouth ferry bid, negotiations begin

The Nova Scotia government has approved a bidder to bring back the ferry service between southwestern Nova Scotia and Maine.

Government rejected 2 bids earlier this year, saying neither was sustainable

A map in the request for proposals for the Yarmouth Ferry from the Government of Nova Scotia. (Government of Nova Scotia)

The Nova Scotia government has approved a bidder to bring back the ferry service between southwestern Nova Scotia and Maine.

This is the ferry that will transport passengers between Yarmouth and Maine beginning in 2014. The ship is currently in Singapore. (CBC)

Economic Development Minister Graham Steele and Keith Condon, chairman of the Nova Scotia International Ferry Partnership, announced on Tuesday that they had selected STM Quest Inc. as the successful company.

"I have personally read the entire STM Quest business plan and I can tell you that these are people with deep roots in both Maine and Nova Scotia. For me, what really made their plan stand out was their passion for this particular route. Their passion is infectious, especially when combined with their deep research and careful planning," said Steele.

They will now enter negotiations with the company, a joint venture between ST Marine Ltd. and Quest Navigation.

"We look forward to launching the cruise-ferry service beginning in 2014 and we are committed to providing a world-class cruise-ferry service for generations to come," said Steve Durrell, chief operating officer for Quest Navigation.

The government and the partnership evaluated business proposals from three companies interested in running the ferry service next year.

The bids were judged on financial stability, management structure, tourism and marketing experience, as well as management history.

Yarmouth businessman Gary Dixon said he is thrilled with the news.

"Well, hopefully this means that the town of Yarmouth and all the surrounding areas in southwest Nova Scotia [and] including all of Nova Scotia can get back on track, get some tourism and get some customers back in here," he said.

The government rejected two bids earlier this year, saying neither met the criteria for a sustainable operation.

Bay Ferries Ltd. used to operate the CAT service between Yarmouth and Bar Harbour and still runs the crossings between Digby and Saint John and the ferries between Nova Scotia and P.E.I.

It announced in December 2009 that it would cancel the money-losing CAT service after the Nova Scotia government said it could no longer provide an annual $6-million subsidy.

The provincial government faced sharp criticism for killing the ferry subsidies and is now offering $21 million over seven years to restart the service, hopefully next year.

With files from The Canadian Press