HALIFAX – After a controversial two year relationship with Nova Star Cruises and the province of Nova Scotia, the Nova Star ferry made its last crossing between Yarmouth and Maine on October 14.
Bay Ferries Limited has been chosen as the new operator of the Yarmouth Ferry, the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal said Thursday.
“Staff have been in discussions with Bay Ferries Limited and we are now ready to officially enter into negotiations on contract details,” said Geoff MacLellan, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.
“When you really look at the overall decision, Bay Ferries was the right partner for us and (we’re) looking forward to working with them in the months ahead.”
Nova Star Cruises had been the operator for two seasons. Despite being given $13-million in government funding this year, in August, the company reported passenger numbers were down, putting its future as the ferry’s operator in jeopardy.
MacLellan says the government had some serious challenges dealing with the company.
“I was certainly concerned with some of the requests coming form Nova Star, and I’ve never really hidden from that,” he said.
The government received four proposals for operation of the ferry, which runs from Yarmouth to Maine, including one from Nova Star Cruises.
In the end, Bay Ferries was selected based on evaluation of their business proposal, marketing and financial plan and industry experience.
“Bay Ferries Limited has the experience, expertise, industry relationships and much of the operational infrastructure already in place, such as a reservations system, that would allow them to hit the ground running,” MacLellan said.
In a statement from Bay Ferries, the company says they are happy to have won the contract.
“Our company is very pleased to have been selected by the Province to enter into these discussions. We understand the importance of this gateway to the Province and want to work with the Province in rebuilding this key transportation corridor,” the statement reads.
The government says details of the contract will be released once negotiations are complete.
The CEO of Nova Star Cruises says they are disappointed they won’t be continuing the service, and thanked Nova Scotians for their support.
The province ended the $6-million a year subsidy to the ferry service in 2009 under the former NDP government led by then Premier Darrell Dexter.
The former government later offered to reinstate the service with a $21-million grant over seven years.
Bay Ferries must decide on the vessel they wish to use within the next 45 days.
Bay Ferries formerly operated The Cat- a high speed catamaran ferry between Yarmouth and Bar Harbour, Maine and Portland Maine.
With files from Natasha Pace.