The Portland City Council unanimously approved a lease agreement Monday to resume ferry service between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

Ferry service had been in doubt since Nova Scotia severed ties with Nova Star Cruises Ltd. after two years. The Nova Star cruise ship left Portland for the final time in December.

The new operator of the service, Bay Ferries Ltd., will use a high-speed catamaran, called The Cat, to make each trip in five hours. The vessel will be allowed to dock at Portland’s Ocean Gateway terminal when it arrives daily at 1:30 p.m. The ferry is expected to depart for Nova Scotia at 2:30 p.m., but can remain berthed until 3 p.m.

City officials estimate that Portland, which is owed $77,000 by Nova Star Cruises, will receive $150,000 in revenue per year from Bay Ferries Ltd. The lease runs from June 1 to Oct. 15 for the next two years, with an option to renew for one year at the city’s discretion.

Under the lease, The Cat will be barred from the port on nine days this season. The so-called blackout dates in August and September are needed to prevent conflicts with other cruise ship traffic, which is heaviest in the fall, city officials say.

“I think it’s an opportunity for the city,” said City Councilor Nicholas Mavodones. “I think it’s good we’re able to have ferry service here on our city waterfront.”


Bay Ferries has already posted its schedule on its website, along with fares for the 2016 season. It will cost adult passengers $107 one way, and $194 round trip. Car rates are $199 one way and $275 round trip. The season is expected to run from June 15 to Sept. 30.

At 349 feet long, The Cat is considerably smaller than the 528-foot-long Nova Star. It can carry as many as 866 passengers and 282 cars, and its vehicle decks can be reconfigured to accommodate as many as 20 buses and 90 cars. The Nova Star’s capacity was 1,212 passengers and 336 cars and/or as many as 38 commercial trucks or buses.

After a nearly five-year hiatus, ferry service resumed between Portland and Nova Scotia in 2014. Nova Star Cruises was heavily subsidized by the province, which invested $41 million (Canadian). It operated for two seasons before filing for bankruptcy in April. The cruise line fell far short of its expectations of serving 100,000 passengers a year. It shuttled 59,000 passengers in 2014 and 52,000 in 2015.

Councilors thanked Maine’s congressional delegation and the city staff Monday for helping to secure a vessel for the new ferry service and negotiate a lease agreement.

Randy Billings can be reached at 791-6346 or at:

Twitter: randybillings

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