The Scotia Prince at Portland International Ferry Terminal on April 28, 2003. Negotiations are under way that could lead to restoration of ferry service between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
PORTLAND – City officials are looking forward to a Jan. 24 deadline for proposals to re-establish regular ferry service between Maine's largest city and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
The government of Nova Scotia has issued a request for proposals through its Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism. Provincial officials have promised to subsidize as much as $21 million over seven years to help a qualified operator restore ferry service.
Portland officials say that a new ferry service to Yarmouth would benefit the city and the state in the wake of The Cat's departure three years ago.
"We know what the potential impact can be for both tourism and transportation," said City Councilor Nicholas Mavodones Jr., who is chairman of the council's Economic Development Committee and operations manager for Casco Bay's ferry service.
Mavodones said he hopes that an operator will offer commercial freight service, which would remove some tractor-trailers from the 400-mile highway route between Portland and Yarmouth. The distance by water is about 180 miles.
"It would add another transportation option to our diverse waterfront and hopefully get some trucks off the road," Mavodones said. "That would save fuel and be better for the environment."
Ferry service between Portland and Yarmouth ended in 2009, when Bay Ferries Ltd. stopped operating the high-speed Cat, largely because Nova Scotia stopped subsidizing the service by as much as $7 million annually.
Nova Scotia officials issued a request for proposals on Dec. 7 and visited Portland on Dec. 14, when they toured the city's waterfront facilities, including the Ocean Gateway passenger terminal, which was built for The Cat.
A new ferry service would operate primarily during the tourist season, carrying passengers and vehicles. Proposals including extended seasons and freight service also will be considered, said Portland Mayor Michael Brennan.
"Portland and Yarmouth have enjoyed a close relationship for generations and we have both benefited from the economic and tourism opportunities associated with the ferry service," Brennan said in a news release. "I am very encouraged by the steps my counterparts in Nova Scotia have taken to attract a stable ferry service that could serve our two countries for many years to come."
Proposals must show how operators plan to make ferry service self-sustaining and profitable within seven years, according to Nova Scotia's Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism.
Proposals also must address a report -- written by experts hired by the province and issued Sept. 7 -- that outlined conditions for a ferry service to be successful, including providing a high-quality travel experience and following a sophisticated marketing strategy.
Prospective service providers are expected to contact Portland officials for information about the city's waterfront facilities. City Manager Mark Rees said he wasn't aware of anyone seeking information for a ferry service proposal.
"We view Portland as a major tourist attraction," Rees said. "Adding this transportation option would be a major benefit to the city."
Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: