Nova Star Cruises, the beleaguered ferry service that shuttled passengers between Portland and Nova Scotia for two years, has filed for bankruptcy in Canada.

According to documents filed April 13 in a Halifax district court, the company owes more than $15 million to creditors and identified only $142,000 in assets. The city of Portland is owed more than $77,000, primarily in unpaid port fees that total $57,894.

Among the Maine companies owed money are Portland Pilots Inc., which is owed nearly $200,000, the largest of the Maine creditors. Also listed are Pratt Abbott Uniform and Linen ($16,213); Portland Tugboat ($12,030); Portland Regional Chamber ($600); Publicover Security Service in Portland ($2,720); Troiano Waste Services ($2,784); the Convention Bureau of Portland ($2,499); and Brown Ship Services ($43,225).

Several media companies, including MaineToday Media, publisher of the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, are also owed money. MaineToday Media is owed $9,890. Portland Radio Group also is owed money ($1,035), as is the Maine Public Broadcasting Network ($3,150); Hartford Courant Media Group in Boston ($15,000); and The Boston Globe ($139,434).

Savvy Inc., a public relations consulting company owned by Dennis Bailey, is owed $9,012.

Among the more curious Maine companies owed money by Nova Star Cruises is Red Hot & Lady Like, with a business address at 509 Forest Ave. It is owed $1,000.


Singapore Technologies Maritime Ltd., the owner of the Nova Star ferry, tops the list of creditors with $11.8 million, presumably unpaid lease payments. The next largest creditor is FleetPro Ocean Inc. of Miami at $1.2 million.

The court appointed Deloitte Restructuring Inc. to serve as trustee. It notified creditors of the filing Wednesday. The first meeting for creditors is set for May 4 in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

The Nova Star ran into problems at the very beginning of its first season, in 2014. Regulatory delays pushed back the start of its sailing season, delaying ticket sales and causing it to lose charter and tour bus business that first year. Passenger numbers never reached the 100,000 goal set that first season. The Nova Star ended the season with only 59,000 people making the trek from Portland to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

The second year was even worse, with only 52,000 passengers using the service.

The ferry’s financial troubles led a federal court to order the seizure of the Nova Star in October, after several companies complained that they were owed more than $3 million. The ferry remained under arrest for several weeks until it left Portland Harbor for good in December after a settlement was reached with many of its creditors and the ferry’s owner, Singapore Technologies.

In a Nov. 17 article about the more than $3 million owed to local vendors, Mark Amundsen, the Eliot-based owner of Nova Star Cruises, said he intended to pay the ferry’s outstanding bills if he could get $2 million he claimed was owed to him by the provincial government. In a statement, he said he wanted to cut the 2015 season short because of low passenger volumes, but the Nova Scotia government insisted he continue the runs until Oct. 13, incurring additional costs.


“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 at the time 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. It had no further obligation.

Nova Scotia officials consider the service an essential element of the province’s tourism industry and provided more than $40 million in subsidies to support it.

A new company, Bay Ferries Ltd., has been selected to provide the service this year. It intends to run a much smaller, faster ferry service than Nova Star’s.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: