September 18, 2018 4:31 pm
Updated: September 18, 2018 4:32 pm

CAT’s August ridership numbers largest in service history, more needed to meet passenger targets

The CAT, a high-speed passenger ferry, departs Yarmouth, N.S. heading to Portland, Maine on its first scheduled trip on Wednesday, June 15, 2016.

Andrew Vaughan/ The Canadian Press
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New figures show that August was the biggest month in the CAT’s service history. But that may not be enough to stop a planned shift to a new American port-of-call for the high-speed ferry between Yarmouth, N.S. and Portland, Maine.

The new numbers provided by the City of Portland paint a rosy month for the CAT ferry service.

They were able to attract a total of 18,366 passengers in August 2018, a 31 per cent increase from August 2017.

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READ MORE: June passenger count for CAT ferry shrinks by 13 per cent compared to 2017

It’s a respectable increase that comes with the caveat. The CAT carried out only 84 of the 112 rounds scheduled for the 2017 season as a result of engine issues that began at the end of June.

Those issues were fixed in time for the 2018 season, but the numbers are far below what has been predicted by the province.

Nova Scotia’s Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (TIR) department said it had set a target of 55,000 passengers for the 2018 season.

To reach that goal, the CAT would have to have 16,618 passengers between Sept. 1 and Oct. 8.

If it does hit the mark, it’d be the first time in the current three-year contract that Bay Ferries met the annual passenger target set by the province.

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.

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

The provincial subsidy for the 2018 sailing season is expected to be $10.9 million

The low ridership points once again to a possible move for the fledgling service that would see it move the American port of call to Bar Harbour, Maine.

READ MORE: CAT service could move from Portland to Bar Harbour by 2019

Lloyd Hines, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, told media in July that a move could come as early as 2019.

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 must notify Portland of its decision by Oct. 15. The City of Portland says that of Tuesday they have not been notified by Bay Ferries of their decision.

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 needed.

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

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