Nova Scotia

Bay Ferries signs 5-year lease to use The Cat for Yarmouth ferry service

The company that operates the ferry service between Yarmouth, N.S., and Bar Harbor, Maine, has secured a new five-year agreement to use The Cat high-speed ferry.

No crossings in 2019 season due to construction delays at Maine ferry terminal

Bay Ferries will continue to use The Cat ferry for the next five years to provide service between Yarmouth, N.S. and Bar Harbor, Maine. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

The company that operates the ferry service between Yarmouth, N.S., and Bar Harbor, Maine, has secured a new five-year agreement to use The Cat high-speed ferry.

Bay Ferries CEO Mark MacDonald confirmed the agreement between his company and the U.S. Navy on Thursday.

The agreement means the company has the services of the vessel up to and including the ninth year of its 10-year contract with the Nova Scotia government.

Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Lloyd Hines welcomed the news.

"It's really kind of exciting because, as you know, the Portland destination was at the perimeter of [the ferry's] ability to operate," he said in an interview Thursday at Province House.

"The Bar Harbor destination is well within that. It changes some of the economics and it's a true high-speed ferry so we're looking forward to getting operational at Bar Harbor in 2020."

Details not yet known

This past season was supposed to be the service's first using Bar Harbor as the port of call after previously going to Portland, Maine. The shorter trip is predicted to save on fuel costs and wear and tear on the vessel.

However, delays in getting necessary approvals from U.S. Customs and Border Protection for construction work on the terminal led to the entire 2019 season being cancelled without any crossings.

Bay Ferries previously had a four-year lease to use The Cat, at which point the navy put the use of the vessel up for tender.

Terms of the new agreement between Bay Ferries and the navy were not released Thursday and Hines said he's still waiting for the final details.

"My staff will be following up on that [Friday] and letting me know," he said.

Despite having no service this year, the subsidy for the service as well as the construction work — all of which is covered by the province — has amounted to about $20 million.

The Bar Harbor terminal is shown on Aug. 5, 2019. (Paul Poirier/CBC)

Hines said his government remains committed to and confident in the service and its future.

"We know that it's good for Nova Scotia. We know that it's good for the rural economy, particularly in that particular section of the province and this is nothing but good news to know that this vessel has been secured for another five years," said Hines.

The Cat departed Yarmouth on Thursday morning to return to Charleston, S.C., where it will spend the off-season and receive standard maintenance.

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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