The number of passengers sailing on the Nova Star cruise ferry between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, nearly doubled in July from the previous month, but the passenger count was lower than many had hoped it would be at the height of the summer tourist season.
The ferry operator, Nova Star Cruises, reports that 13,043 passengers boarded Nova Star in July, for an average of 217 passengers per one-way trip.
In a news release Friday, the company said that it is doing much better in August. So far, the ferry has booked 17,255 passengers for trips this month.
The ship has a capacity of more than 1,200 but Nova Star officials have said they would be happy with an average of 250-350 passengers per one-way trip. In June, the company served 6,740 passengers, an average of 112 passengers per trip.
The ferry, which does a daily round trip between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, is the first service between the province and the United States since 2009, when the Nova Scotia government discontinued its subsidies for the high-speed ferry that operated the same route and the service shut down.
Nova Star Cruises began service in May at the request of the Nova Scotia government, even though the company wasn’t able to finalize its contract with the province until last November. It also encountered delays in obtaining a U.S. federal permit, which was awarded in March and allowed the company to begin selling tickets and marketing the service.
Mark Amundsen, president and CEO of Nova Star Cruises, said in a statement that it will take time to rebuild the service.
“We have said from the beginning that rebuilding this service, which ended nearly five years ago, will take time,” he said. “But with our continued growth, especially in August, we are very optimistic and positive about the future.”
Before the service began, Amundsen predicted the ferry would serve 100,000 passengers in its first year. So far this year, including the tickets sold for August but not September or October, the company has sold fewer than 40,000 one-way tickets. It is unclear how many of these were paying passengers, because those under age 18 currently ride for free.
In its first year, Nova Star Cruises has already accessed all of the $21 million the Nova Scotia government committed in subsidies to the service. The money was supposed to be spread over seven years. The company has not received any money from the state of Maine, and has yet to obtain a $5 million line of credit from a Maine bank, which it has been seeking since November.
In Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, there are a lot of concerns about whether the ferry will return next summer, according the local newspaper, the Yarmouth Vanguard.
The Yarmouth Town Council on Thursday voted to approve resolutions calling on the provincial government to continue to provide funding for the ferry, and calling on the federal government to recognize the crossing as an international highway link between Canada and the United States, which would allow the service to receive funding from Canada’s federal government.
The numbers for July show that the ferry ride from Maine to Nova Scotia is more popular than the return trip. In July, 7,450 passengers sailed on the ferry from Portland to Yarmouth, and 5,593 made the trip from Yarmouth to Portland. Two trips were canceled in July because of stormy weather.