The newly elected premier of Nova Scotia said Wednesday that there is no final deal to resume ferry service between the province and Portland.

Incoming Premier Stephen McNeil, whose Liberal Party was swept into power in elections Oct. 8, told CTV News that he was surprised to learn after the election that the province has no agreement with the prospective ferry operator, a joint venture called STM Quest.

Before the election, he said, he believed an agreement was in hand because of statements made by the previous government.

McNeil said his government is committed to resuming ferry service between Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and Portland and will work to reach an agreement with STM Quest.

“If not, we then obviously pursue another operator,” he told CTV.

The revival of ferry service to Maine was a big election issue in Nova Scotia. Many residents in the southwestern part of the province were furious that the government in 2009 canceled its subsidy of the Cat, operated by Bay Ferries Ltd.

Without the ferry to and from Maine, the tourism industry has suffered in Nova Scotia, especially in the southwest. Most of the passengers on the Cat and its predecessor, the Scotia Prince, were Americans traveling to the province for vacation.

In last week’s election, the New Democratic Party, which won power for the first time in 2009 under the leadership of Darrell Dexter, was reduced to third place. Dexter was defeated in his own district.

Dexter’s government had promised to provide as much as $21 million over seven years to subsidize ferry service.

On Sept. 5, two days before Nova Scotia’s election was called, the outgoing minister of economic development, Graham Steele, said the government had “successfully concluded an agreement with STM Quest.” He said the ferry service would begin in May.

STM Quest is a joint venture involving Quest Navigation of Eliot, Maine, and Singapore Technologies Marine, which owns the Nova Star, a ship that is now in Singapore.

Not only is there no final agreement between Nova Scotia and STM Quest, but Quest Navigation and Singapore Technologies Marine have to yet finalize their agreement for use of the vessel.

The ship was designed to cross the English Channel between Le Havre, France, and Portsmouth, England. The company that planned to buy it canceled the purchase before delivery, citing construction delays and “deficiency in deadweight capacity.”

Deadweight is the load — including cargo, fuel, stores, crew members and passengers — that a ship can carry without becoming unstable.

The deadweight capacity of the Nova Star is 3,400 tons, more than twice the 1,694 tons for the Scotia Prince, which operated between Portland and Yarmouth from 1982 to 2004.

A representative from STM Quest could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:[email protected]Twitter: TomBellPortland

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