While the list of vendors clamoring for their money continues to grow, the former operator of the Nova Star ferry is waging a financial battle of its own with Nova Scotia’s government.

Mark Amundsen, CEO and president of Nova Star Cruises, said Tuesday that the ferry operator could pay most of its bills if the province would give his company the $2 million he says it is owed. Officials in Nova Scotia, however, say the province already has given Amundsen millions of dollars more than it had promised and is not obligated to give any more.

Caught in the crossfire are nine local vendors who have filed legal claims totaling more than $3 million in unpaid charges following the ferry’s final, disastrous season.

Nova Star Cruises ran a daily ferry service between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, for two seasons, but the operation was beset with financial problems. The emerging fight between the company and the province has brought to light new information about just how bad things were in the final weeks of the service.

The company told the province on Aug. 28 that it planned to cut the season short, ending it on Aug. 31, because passenger volumes were so low the service was not commercially viable, according to a letter to the province that Amundsen released on Tuesday. However, at the insistence of the province, the company continued to operate the ferry until Oct. 13, incurring additional costs, Amundsen said.

Also, Amundsen revealed on Tuesday that his company three weeks ago lost its charter agreement with the vessel’s owner, Singapore Technologies Marine, from whom the ferry was leased. The loss of its charter means Nova Star Cruises no longer controls the ferry and therefore has no opportunity to raise cash to pay off its debts. The vessel has been anchored in Portland Harbor for three weeks under seizure by the federal government.

“If we had received the full $21 million that the province has repeatedly said in public statements that it provided Nova Star Cruises, we would have avoided the liens that have been placed on the ship, and most of the creditors would already have been paid,” Amundsen said in a statement.

Amundsen was referencing the $21 million (Canadian) in forgivable loans the province made to Nova Star Cruises during its inaugural season in 2014. However, $2 million of that sum was used to cover a surety bond required by the U.S. Maritime Commission, he said. After Nova Star Cruises set up an escrow account to replace the surety bond, the province took the $2 million back, Amundsen said.

But Geoff MacLellan, the Nova Scotia minister of transportation, said in an interview that the province spent $28.5 million (Canadian) for the service in its inaugural season in 2014, including $2 million to cover the surety bond. Though the government got that money back from the U.S. Maritime Commission in July, the province’s total payout to the ferry operator in 2014 was more than the $21 million the government had promised.

The original agreement called for the government to lend Nova Star Cruises $21 million over seven years, but the ferry operator used it up in one year.

Then the province gave Amundsen an additional $13 million (Canadian) in 2015.

MacLellan said Amundsen knew last year that the province planned to reclaim the $2 million it used to cover the surety bond. He said Amundsen is bringing up the issue now because he wants to shift the blame for his debts.

“That all of a sudden it’s our responsibility is certainly frustrating,” MacLellan said.

He said his government has no obligation to the companies that have unpaid bills, a group that continues to grow.

Westbrook-based laundry service provider Pratt Abbott filed documents in U.S. District Court in Portland on Tuesday claiming that Nova Star Cruises owes it $262,000.

The charges are for unpaid cleaning bills and for the thousands of Pratt Abbott’s bed sheets and towels that are aboard the ship, which remains under seizure by the U.S. Marshals Service.

Pratt Abbot joins other vendors who say that Nova Star Cruises owes them money, bringing the total sum of claims in the United States to nearly $2.9 million. The company has repeatedly said it would make good on its debts. In addition, Nova Star Cruises owes about $200,000 to vendors and suppliers in Nova Scotia, Amundsen said in the statement.

For companies making claims, there is a potential source of compensation – the vessel itself.

Under U.S. maritime law, the federal government can seize vessels if the operator owes money for goods and services deemed “maritime necessities.” Also under maritime law, the ship owner’s interest is subordinate to those with valid liens. If the ship is sold at auction, Singapore Technologies Marine will get whatever money is left over after all other bills are paid.

Because ships sold at auction typically go for less money than they’re worth, the owners will often step in and negotiate a settlement with creditors.

Three weeks ago, after Nova Star Cruises lost its contract with the Nova Scotia government to operate the ferry service between Portland and Yarmouth, a Portland company that provided pilot services for the ferry filed a claim in federal court saying it is owed $195,000, which led to the vessel’s seizure and opened the floodgates for other claims. The companies claiming to be owed money include ship chandlers, fuel suppliers, tugboat operators and harbor pilots.

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