July 12, 2018 2:41 pm
Updated: July 12, 2018 5:50 pm

CAT service could move from Portland to Bar Harbour by 2019: Nova Scotia Minister

The CAT ferry leaves Yarmouth, N.S. for its maiden voyage to Portland, Maine.

File/Global News

Nova Scotia’s Minister of Transportation says that the province will not stand in the way of a move for the CAT ferry from Portland, Maine to Bar Harbour.

Lloyd Hines said at a meeting of the province’s cabinet that he expects a request from Bay Ferries Ltd., — the owner of the high-speed ferry service — to be filed soon.

Although details need to be sorted out, Hines said that service to Bar Harbour could begin by 2019 or 2020.

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READ MORE: Bar Harbor residents vote to buy vacant ferry terminal to possibly bring back CAT ferry

Although Bay Ferries operates independently, receives an annual operating subsidy of $10 million by the province of Nova Scotia.

The province inked a 10-year deal with the company to operate the ferry service between Yarmouth, N.S., and Portland, Maine, back in 2016.

Hines said that no financial study has been undertaken to assess how many people from the Bar Harbour-area would be interested in taking the ferry to Nova Scotia.

“We’ve had discussions about that. They have the previous operating experience and I think they’re drilling down into the possible available market there.

“At the end of the day, they’re the experts in this business.”

Marla MacInnis, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Department, said the provincial subsidy for the 2018 sailing season is expected to be $10.9 million.

“It’s an increase of $1.5 million over the budgeted subsidy for 2017,” she said in an email.

“Rising fuel costs account for a large portion of the $1.5 million increase in the subsidy as well as revised revenue projections to reflect steady growth.”

Global News reported last month that Bay Ferries was already engaged in preliminary talks with Bar Harbour about a possible move.

Bar Harbour residents voted to allow their town to purchase a vacant ferry terminal from the Department of Transportation for US$3.5 million.

The town’s manager, Cornell Knight, told Global News that Bay Ferries estimated it will cost US$3 million to upgrade the terminal for its use with the company offering to front the cash needed to make it happen.

Hines confirmed there will be a cost incurred by the move, but that province has yet to figure out how much it will be on the hook for.

“That particular service is essential to transportation services in Nova Scotia and it is providing a huge economic impact in the province, especially throughout the South-West portion province,” Hines said.

The province has previously said that it has not performed an economic impact study on the CAT, saying it was too early in the lifecycle of the operation.

READ MORE: Bay Ferries exploring possible shift in service from Portland to Bar Harbor

The lease agreement between Bay Ferries and the City of Portland is for one year. The current lease, obtained by Global News, expires on Nov. 15.

Bay Ferries has an option to renew for another year, and has to notify Portland by Oct. 15.

The Nova Scotia government put up nearly $1.5 million earlier this year to upgrade the Portland ferry terminal, as ordered by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency.

The agency had warned that without nearly US$7 million in upgrades, the facility would not meet federal standards.

The province’s investment was in equipment required to keep the ferry running this year and Hines said the equipment is portable and could be moved if need be.

With files from The Canadian Press

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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