The Nova Scotia government has set a Friday deadline for proposals to operate a Yarmouth-to-Portland ferry service next year, a route that has proved problematic for the current operator.

The province issued a request for submissions on Sept. 8 to four potential service providers, including the current operator, Nova Star Cruises, according to the Vanguard, a Yarmouth newspaper. The province wants to enter into a 10-year funding agreement with the winner of the bid by Oct. 31.

The request seeks preliminary information, including details on the qualifications and experience of the bidder, vessel information, financial projections and a preliminary marketing plan, according to the paper. It won’t be clear if all four prospects will file proposals until after the Friday deadline.

The provincial government has deemed the ferry service a necessary component of its tourism industry. Over the past two years, it has awarded more than $35 million in subsidies to Nova Star Cruises to revive the Maine-to-Yarmouth route after a four-year hiatus.

But the service has attracted fewer passengers than expected. An analysis by the provincial government projected the service would carry 110,000 passengers in its first year. Instead, it carried 59,000, and through August of this year it has carried 37,800, below the pace of its inaugural year.

A section of the proposal request titled “subsidy arrangement” states that if a potential operator has already run a service, passenger numbers in the previous two sailing seasons must have been 60,000 per year, or less. However, there must be a plan for growth of passenger numbers, according to the Vanguard.

The Nova Scotia tourism industry has faced declining numbers of visitors overall in the last few years, contributing to the woes of the revived ferry service.