Nova Scotia

No commercial crossings for Yarmouth-Bar Harbor ferry this season

There will be no commercial crossings for the ferry between Yarmouth, N.S., and Bar Harbor, Maine, in 2019. The service’s operator, Bay Ferries, suspended bookings after several delays and cancellations earlier this year because construction work at the terminal in Bar Harbor wasn't complete.

Government, ferry operator looking ahead to 2020 for The Cat

After many delays, it was confirmed Friday that The Cat ferry will not make any commercial crossings between Nova Scotia and Maine in 2019. (Michael Gorman/CBC)

There will be no commercial crossings for the ferry between Yarmouth, N.S., and Bar Harbor, Maine, in 2019.

The service's operator, Bay Ferries, suspended bookings after several delays and cancellations earlier this year because construction work at the terminal in Bar Harbor wasn't complete. Traditionally, the service ends for the season at the Thanksgiving weekend.

Although Transportation Minister Lloyd Hines had promised an update on the service this week, on Friday he was only willing to hint at the fact that there would be no crossings this year.

"We're really disappointed on behalf of the operators that we haven't been able to mount a season," he told reporters at Province House.

"We know how important that that service is to, in particular southwest Nova Scotia, but all of Nova Scotia, really, in terms of the tourism product and we're continuing to work towards a successful season in 2020."

Focus shifts to 2020

Pressed by reporters to answer whether there would be any crossings this year — department officials had previously said they'd be happy even with one or two — Hines sailed around the question.

"We're really not ruling anything out when it comes to our commitment to this service," he said.

Although Hines would not answer the question, the CEO of Bay Ferries confirmed the situation in an email.

"There will not be any commercial crossings in 2019," Mark MacDonald wrote.

This was to be the first year for the service going to Bar Harbor after previously sailing between Nova Scotia and Portland, Maine.

Costs reach $20M

Although government and Bay Ferries officials had hoped the site in Bar Harbor would be ready in time for the switch this season, delays related to construction and approvals from U.S. Customs and Border Protections greatly slowed the process.

Hines noted earlier this week that operational procedures in America are different than they used to be and the province and company had to allow the process to play out according to the U.S. guidelines and requirements. While there have been no crossings this season, there have been bills.

The renovation work at the terminal is costing about $8.5 million, while the subsidy for the company this year will cost about $11.4 million.

Tourism operators in the Yarmouth and Acadian Shores region have noticed the absence of the service this year, with room nights sold down by almost 20 per cent compared to last year.

About the Author

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca

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