The new ferry that’s expected to operate next summer between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, was rejected two years ago by a French shipping company over safety concerns.
But those concerns aren’t an issue here because the Nova Scotia service won’t involve as much heavy cargo, officials said.
The ferry will be called the Nova Star. But its original name was the Norman Leader.
In 2007, the French company LD Lines contracted with Singapore Technologies Marine to build a ferry for its passenger and cargo service between Portsmouth, England, and Le Havre, France.
The ship underwent sea trials in 2010 and was scheduled to go into service that year. But in March 2011, the ship builder stated in a news release that it had received notice from the French company that it was terminating its $179 million contract for the ship. LD Lines cited a delay in construction and the vessel’s “deficiency in deadweight capacity.”
Deadweight is the load – including cargo, fuel, stores, crew and passengers – that a ship can carry without riding dangerously low in the water.
Officials in Nova Scotia, which is subsidizing the Portland-Yarmouth service, and the vessel’s operator say those concerns won’t apply here because the vessel won’t be carrying much cargo.
Officials in the Nova Scotia government were well aware of the safety issues before it began negotiations with Quest Navigation, Inc., the Maine company that will operate the service, and those issues were addressed, said Gary Andrea, a spokesman for the Nova Scotia Department of Economic and Rural Development.
Mark Amundsen, president and chief operating officer of Quest Navigation, also said the vessel can safely meet the company’s specific operating needs. The company has reviewed all aspects of the vessel and “concluded that, technically and commercially, the vessel meets all of our requirements for operating the Nova Star Cruises ferry service,” he said in written statement.
The service across the Gulf of Maine will be much different than the one planned for the English Channel, said Keith Condon, a Yarmouth businessman who was part of the process of selecting a ferry operator.
About 85 percent of the vehicles crossing the English Channel would have been trucks, he said. The service in the Gulf of Maine, tentatively scheduled to begin May 1, will cater to tourists. Condon said he expects that only 10 percent of the vehicles on the ferry will be trucks.
“Those (deadweight) issues don’t affect us,” he said.
At 528 feet, the Nova Star is 43 feet longer than the Scotia Prince, the once-familiar ferry that operated between Portland and Yarmouth from 1982 to 2004.
The Nova Star has 163 cabins and capacity for 1,215 passengers. It can carry 336 cars and 38 commercial vehicles.
The Nova Scotia government has awarded Quest Navigation a contract that will give it $21 million to subsidize ferry service.
Quest Navigation is currently working on the final details of the contract with the provincial government and with Singapore Technologies Marine, which owns the vessel.
No ferry has operated between Portland and Yarmouth since 2009, when The Cat’s high-speed service ended after Nova Scotia stopped subsidizing it.
The sailing schedule is expected to mirror the schedule of the Scotia Prince, running from May 1 to Oct. 31, leaving Yarmouth daily at 9 a.m. and arriving in Portland at 5 p.m. The return trip would leave Portland at 8 p.m. and arrive in Yarmouth at 7 a.m.
No information about fares has been released.
Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at: