An English company’s plans to use the Nova Star ferry to cross the English Channel this winter lacks the support of the local government that controls the English port the ferry would use.

Nova Star Cruises, which operates the summertime ferry service between Maine and Nova Scotia, announced Tuesday that a little-known company called Euroferries Express Ltd. will operate the Nova Star in the offseason on a new route across the English Channel between Ramsgate, England, and Boulogne, France.

The route would give Nova Star Cruises much-needed income during the offseason.

Officials in Boulogne are praising the deal because they say it will bring much-needed economic activity to the French city.

On the other side of the English channel, however, nobody is celebrating. The Thanet District Council, which oversees the port in Ramsgate, on Wednesday issued a statement that said the council has no agreement with Euroferries Express Ltd. to facilitate a cross-channel ferry service between Ramsgate and Boulogne.

According to the Isle of Thanet Gazette, a separate but related company called Euroferries Ltd. approached the council six years ago with plans for a ferry service. Since then, neither company has been able to show it can provide a viable ferry service, the newspaper reported.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Euroferries Express director Adrian Gillan said that it recently informed the Thanet District Council that it plans to transfer its base of operations to Boulogne, where it enjoys the support of the local government, and that it is waiting to hear from the council about its request for berthing rights at Ramsgate.

Nova Star Cruises spokesman Dennis Bailey said that Nova Star Cruises has a signed agreement with Euroferries Express to lease the Nova Star for the offseason. He said Nova Star Cruises won’t have any operational role in the new service and that Euroferries has offered assurance that it will obtain the required port agreements.

Bailey said the controversy will not affect Nova Star Cruises’ plans to bring the ferry back to the Gulf of Maine for the 2016 season. If the deal for the English Channel route should fall apart, he said, Nova Star Cruises has other options for a winter route for the Nova Star.

“We have other offers,” he said. “We have other potential places we can go for the winter route.”

The Nova Scotia government, which is heavily subsidizing the route between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, on Aug. 17 plans to decide whether to award Nova Star Cruises a contract for the 2016 season or give the route to another operator.

The government has expressed disappointment with the Nova Star’s passenger volumes this year.

Although June passenger volumes were better in 2015 than 2014 – up roughly 26 percent – the increase didn’t carry through the July tourist season, for which expectations were high. Nova Star Cruises released passenger data Tuesday that show 13,341 passengers rode the ferry in July – an increase of just 2.3 percent over July 2014.

The service has been affected by the decline of the Canadian dollar, which is worth 76 cents in U.S. currency at current exchange rates. The decline has made it cheaper for Americans to travel to Canada but more expensive for Canadians to travel here.

The impact of the exchange rate can be seen in the Nova Star passenger volumes this summer. Travel on the ferry by U.S. citizens grew 28 percent during the two-month period ending July 2015, compared to the same period in 2014. Travel by Canadians fell 27 percent during this period.

Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:

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