Better numbers in 2018 for Yarmouth ferry, but future U.S. berth remains unclear
Portland or Bar Harbor? It's not yet known where the ferry from Yarmouth will dock in 2019
Ridership on the ferry from Yarmouth, N.S., to Portland, Maine, was up in 2018, but where the ferry will dock next year on the U.S. side remains uncertain.
Bay Ferries Ltd. ended its 2018 season on Monday with a total of 50,185 passengers, up 21 per cent from 2017.
Last year, Bay Ferries carried 41,623 passengers. The season was marred by engine problems that reduced the number of crossings.
At that time, Transportation Minister Lloyd Hines said the service lost almost 25 per cent of its crossings in 2017.
In a news release, Bay Ferries said increases in the price of fuel through the 2018 season has been a challenge. It said that is one of the reasons the service could move from Portland to Bar Harbor, which is much nearer to Yarmouth.
The company cited other reasons for considering the move to Bar Harbor including uncertainty in the future availability of the Portland terminal.
Bay Ferries says it still has the option, until Nov. 15, of extending its lease with the City of Portland next year.
To do so, Bay Ferries would have to commit at least $7.8 million to the construction of new U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility at the American port.
Last month, all three levels of the Canadian government committed a total of $9.7 million to upgrade the ferry terminal in Yarmouth.
The Nova Scotia government has provided $32 million in subsidies since the ferry service between Yarmouth and Portland was restarted in 2015.
If the ferry operator decides to move to Bar Harbor, the town would have to decide to lease a portion of the existing ferry terminal property and the location would require security approvals.
Bay Ferries said a decision from the town is expected on Tuesday.
The company said it has been in touch with architecture and engineering firms to estimate what it would cost for renovations.
Bay Ferries has offered Bar Harbor about $4 million to upgrade its ferry terminal — an amount the company has asked the province to cover. The company has also offered a minimum annual rent payment of $200,000 on a five-year lease.