November 21, 2012

Nova Scotia moving to revive Maine ferry service

Officials prepare to seek bids from potential providers of round trips to Portland, last offered in 2009.

By Randy Billings rbillings@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Today's poll: Nova Scotia

Would you use the Portland-to-Nova Scotia ferry if it was revived?

Yes

No

View Results

click image to enlarge

The Scotia Prince in 2003. Canada is working to revive Nova Scotia-to-Portland ferry service, which has been defunct since 2009.

Staff File Photo

Since ferry service ended, Portland has grown as a cruise ship destination. This year, the city hosted 59 ships with a total of 68,773 passengers. In 2011, 56 ships came, carrying 85,508 passengers, according to the Port of Portland.

Jeff Monroe, a port and transportation consultant with HDR in Boston, said he was been working with two operators that are interested in bidding for the ferry service -- one from Italy and one from North America.

Monroe said his studies have shown that the most profitable service would be an overnight, cruise-style ferry with a 24-hour turnaround.

He said he is optimistic that the service will be restored by 2014, if the port in Yarmouth is upgraded and operators can find a year-round use for their vessel.

"I think it has a real good chance of occurring," said Monroe, who is Portland's former transportation director.

Bay Ferries is considering whether to submit a bid, said Donald Cormier, the company's vice president of operations and safety.

Cormier wouldn't speculate about the type of ferry service, nor would he say why the company, which operated The Cat at a loss, is interested in giving it another shot.

"Until we see exactly what they want, at that point, we will evaluate whether our company will continue to participate," said Cormier, noting that the company would have to ensure profitability for its shareholders.

The Nova Scotia-based Chronicle Herald reported Wednesday that the United Kingdom's P&O Ferries, which has one of the biggest passenger and freight fleets in Europe, has also expressed interest in operating the ferry.

The newspaper reported that the service could be running as soon as next year, though officials said a 2014 start is more likely.

Monroe said Maine must view the ferry service as part of its transportation system, rather than simply leaving it to Nova Scotia.

Portland City Manager Mark Rees said the city isn't in a position to provide financial incentives for a new ferry service, but stands ready to provide technical assistance.

He said the city has made significant investments to its waterfront in recent years, building the Ocean Gateway Terminal and a new facility at the International Marine Terminal.

Paris, Nova Scotia's minister of economic and rural development and tourism, said the province would welcome support from all levels of government in the United States and Canada.

"It would be nice to see the state of Maine with some skin in the game," Paris said.

Nova Scotia is expected to call for new elections in the spring, likely adding political pressure for candidates to restart the ferry service, which is seen as vital to the future of southwestern Nova Scotia.

The time line for potential operators to submit their proposals had not been finalized as of Wednesday.

 

Staff Writer Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

rbillings@mainetoday.com

Twitter: @randybillings

 

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Today's poll: Nova Scotia

Would you use the Portland-to-Nova Scotia ferry if it was revived?

Yes

No

View Results

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