A group that hopes to start an alternative ferry service between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, has secured the ship it plans to use – a 30-year-old vessel with a capacity for 700 passengers.

Working under the name Canamerica Cruises, the group plans to submit a proposal to both the province of Nova Scotia and Gov. Paul LePage on Wednesday. The group wants the province and the state of Maine to abandon the current ferry service provided by Nova Star Cruises in favor of its proposal to operate a smaller, less expensive ship on the same route.

Most of the people behind the Canamerica project worked on the Scotia Prince, a ferry that ran between Portland and Yarmouth from 1982 to 2004. There are many similarities between this proposal and the Scotia Prince operation: the ferry, which will be named Scotia Prince II, resembles the original Scotia Prince vessel; the new service would operate under many of the same managers; and the organization is based on the same business model.

Bruce McNeil, a Halifax resident who for nine years managed sales, the casino operations and marketing efforts for the Scotia Prince, is leading the effort. Henk Pols is the lead consultant for the effort. The 80-year-old Cape Elizabeth resident is the former president of Prince of Fundy Cruises, which owned the Scotia Prince until 2000.

Also on the team is Erik Hultrakantz, who was director of operations for Scotia Prince for 20 years, and Bob Cott, a partner at CD&M Communications in Portland, which handled marketing for the Scotia Prince for 14 years.

McNeil said Canamerica Cruises has an agreement to purchase the vessel if it can obtain agreements from the state of Maine and the province of Nova Scotia to start the new service next spring. Until that agreement is reached, he said, he can’t provide details about the vessel’s identity.


Canamerica Cruises is looking for money to finance startup costs and also for a loan from the provincial government, he said. The company intends to use the vessel as collateral for a government loan, which would allow the province to seize the vessel if the company defaults.

McNeil said he wants LePage to see the plan because the governor in September told Nova Scotia government officials that he plans to submit legislation seeking a $5 million loan guarantee for the Nova Star ferry service.

McNeil said his team believes Nova Star Cruises, which last month finished a disappointing maiden season, will never succeed financially because the Nova Star vessel is too large, too costly to operate and the company charges too much for its fares.

Additionally, he made the argument that the Nova Scotia government can escape from its contract with Nova Star Cruises because the company has failed to deliver on its terms. The contract calls for the government to provide Nova Star Cruises with a forgivable loan of $21 million (Canadian) over seven years, but in the first season, the government allocated $26 million so Nova Star could pay its bills.

Dennis Bailey, a spokesman for Nova Star Cruises, declined to comment for this story.

The Nova Star is currently tied up in the harbor in Yarmouth while company officials work to find a winter route for the ferry, which would provide much-needed income.


The province has hired a consultant with ferry experience to examine Nova Star Cruises’ business practices and audit its books with the goal of finding ways to increase efficiency and reduce costs.

McNeil said fares on the Scotia Prince II would be substantially less than Nova Star’s, although he declined to provide details. During the peak season this summer, it cost $1,115 for two people to make a round trip on the Nova Star, including a cabin and car transport, although the company offered several discount packages to attract passengers throughout the season.

McNeil said fares on the Scotia Prince II would be same whether people travel during the shoulder season or peak season. The ferry would operate daily between May and October.

McNeil said a ferry service on the route could be profitable if operated with a smaller ferry – one with a capacity of 700 passengers rather than the Nova Star’s 1,120-passenger capacity. The Scotia Prince II would have some cruise ship amenities, like live entertainment and a casino, but it wouldn’t be as luxurious as the Nova Star, a new ship that cost $165 million to build.


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