Wednesday, April 16, 2014
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A Maine company called Quest Navigation Inc., is one of three companies who bid to relaunch ferry service between Portland and Nova Scotia beginning in summer 2014. Quest joined with International Shipping Partners of Miami and ST Marine of Singapore to operate the Nova Star, seen above.
Photo courtesy Quest Navigation
Keith Condon of Yarmouth, co-chair of the Nova Scotia International Ferry Partnership, said he is thrilled by the response to the government's request for proposals, the second request in the past year. The first failed to lure experienced companies.
"This is better than good. It's an excellent response," Condon said Friday.
Condon will serve on the panel that will evaluate the proposals. He said the panel will dedicate the month of July to the effort. The province wants service by next summer.
In April, Condon and a Nova Scotia tourism official pitched the ferry service to operators at the world's largest international ferry conference, held in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
While he never said in his presentation that Portland would be the port of call in the United States, Condon used statistics about the Scotia Prince service and Portland, such as the number of people who live within a day's drive of the city.
While many more people live in Boston, he said, Portland is a better choice for a port of call because it's closer to Nova Scotia.
The Scotia Prince took 11 hours to sail between Portland and Yarmouth, so it could make the round trip every day. Boston is too far away to support daily service to Nova Scotia, Condon said.
Portland has the infrastructure to support ferry service -- the Ocean Gateway terminal, built by the city and the state in 2008 for $20.5 million.
The terminal was designed to be a waiting area and customs screening site for passengers getting on and off the Scotia Prince, but the ferry never used it because the service had been canceled by the time Ocean Gateway opened.
The Cat, the high-speed ferry that Bay Ferries Ltd. operated, used Ocean Gateway for two summers.
Neil LeBlanc, co-chair of the Nova Scotia International Ferry Partnership, said he hasn't read the three proposals but the companies that expressed interest all discussed Portland.
Portland, he said, has "a lot of advantages that will be reflected in the proposals."
Officials with Balearia Caribbean Ltd. did not return phone calls.
Quest Navigation and ST Marine said in a written statement that their partnership offers the "financial strength and operational expertise" needed to launch a new cruise ferry service between Portland and Yarmouth.
Brain Rees, spokesman for P&O Ferries, would not say which American port it would use for the service because the company does not want to disclose details about its proposal.
However, he said the company would operate a year-round service in which tourists would make up most of the business during the summer and trucks would support the business in the winter.
He said the vast majority of the company's ferries in Europe offer year-round service and cater to both travelers and commercial shippers.
"We understand big, multi-purpose ferries that mix tourism and freight," he said. "You've got to balance your business instead of putting all your eggs in one basket."
Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:
click image to enlarge
The Scotia Prince at Portland International Ferry Terminal on April 28, 2003. Officials on both sides of the Gulf of Maine say three qualified companies submitted proposals to the Canadian province Thursday to operate a ferry service between Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and New England.
Portland Press Herald file photo by John Ewing