Nova Scotia

Yarmouth ferry may be taken over by Bay Ferries

Nova Star Cruises is out as the operator of the Yarmouth ferry and the Nova Scotia government is currently in talks with Bay Ferries Ltd. — the former operator — to take over the service.

Beleaguered Nova Star ferry service has received $41.5M from Nova Scotia government

The Nova Scotia government spent $41.5 million in subsidies on the Nova Star ferry service. (Angela MacIvor/CBC)

Nova Star Cruises is out as the operator of the Yarmouth ferry and the Nova Scotia government is currently in talks with Bay Ferries Ltd. — the former operator — to take over the service.

"We are now ready to officially enter into negotiations on contract details," said Geoff MacLellan, minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.

"Bay Ferries Limited has the experience, expertise, industry relationships and much of the operational infrastructure already in place, such as a reservations system, that would allow them to hit the ground running. There will be a service out of Yarmouth for 2016."

MacLellan wants a 10-year deal but won't say what the province will provide in subsidies. 

"Obviously we want every morsel of local content and every tax dollar that we invest staying here in the province," he said, adding that he's confident Bay Ferries will focus on that goal.

Returning to the fold

This is not the first foray into a ferry service out of Yarmouth for Bay Ferries. In 2010, the previous New Democratic government stopped funding the company's high-speed service. 

The company had wanted at least $6 million to keep The Cat ferry going between Yarmouth and Bar Harbor and Portland, sources told CBC News at the time.

"Our company is very pleased to have been selected by the province to enter into these discussions," said Mark MacDonald.

"We understand the importance of this gateway to the province and want to work with the province in rebuilding this key transportation corridor." 

Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood said her town is excited for the service to continue in 2016. Mood said she respects the service Nova Star provided, and is thrilled to welcome Bay Ferries to the job.

"The fact that they've been out there and they've been doing this for years and their experience and expertise — I think it goes a long way," she said.

"It may make people breathe a little bit easier. But, we're just, right now, excited for the service."

Cost of ferry 

The ferry service was resurrected in 2014 under operator Nova Star Cruises. The Nova Star made its last sailing of this season on Oct. 14.

The company received the remaining $1.9 million promised by the Nova Scotia government to pay its operating bills. 

The beleaguered Nova Star ferry service has received a total of $41.5 million from the Nova Scotia government. It hit its $13-million subsidy cap earlier this year.

The ferry also missed its passenger goals both years it was in service. The number of passengers this year fell to 51,038, down from its inaugural year in 2014 when 59,018 passengers took the ferry.

It was a far cry from the 100,000 passengers Nova Star Cruises had hoped for in 2014. This year it was hoping for 80,000.

"Nova Star Cruises is disappointed it has not been selected to continue operating the ferry service between Yarmouth, Nova Scotia and Portland, Maine," the company said in an email to CBC News. 

"We would like to thank the people of Nova Scotia for their support over the past two years, and we will work with the province of Nova Scotia toward a smooth transition to the 2016 operating season."

The province reviewed proposals from four companies interested in running the service.


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