November 29, 2018 3:05 pm
Updated: November 29, 2018 3:06 pm

Decision on future of CAT’s American port pushed until end of 2018

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

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A decision on the future of where a Nova Scotia high-speed ferry will base its American port of call has been pushed until the end of the year — three months after the parent company was originally supposed to give notice.

Nova Scotia Transportation Minister Lloyd Hines revealed the news at a meeting of the province’s cabinet on Thursday, saying the deadline for Bay Ferries to notify Portland, Maine, of its intentions for the 2019 sailing season has been extended for the third time.

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According to a lease agreement reviewed by Global News, Bay Ferries has an option to renew its lease with Portland for another year. The company was originally supposed to notify Portland by Oct. 15 before it was given an extension to Nov. 15, then Nov. 30.

On Thursday, Hines said a potential lease agreement between Bay Ferries and Bar Harbor, Maine, still hasn’t been signed, and so an extension was needed with Portland.

READ MORE: Bar Harbor, Maine council votes unanimously for 5-year CAT lease

Hines added that Bay Ferries has told him that a move to Bar Harbor by June is “still feasible.”

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, it receives an annual operating subsidy of approximately $10 million from the province of Nova Scotia.

The provincial subsidy for the 2018 sailing season was projected to be $10.9 million

The Bar Harbor Town Council voted 7-0 to approve a five-year lease with Bay Ferries and make the town of 5,000 the new American home of the ferry back in October.

A potential move of the CAT has been in the works for at least a year, according to Bay Ferries.

But a move means Nova Scotia taxpayers will likely shoulder the burden of any transition to Bar Harbor, with some preliminary estimates pegging the cost to be at least US$4 million.

As Global News reported in October, the provincial government has known about a series of potential million-dollar commitments associated with the move since at least June.

WATCH: Yarmouth ferry operator aiming to extend sailing season for 2017

The commitments include a US$1-million guarantee of Bay Ferries’ five-year lease of the Bar Harbor ferry terminal as well as a US$3-million commitment towards upgrades and improvements at the terminal.

Hines also says a consultant has been looking at the costs associated with renovating the Bar Harbor terminal, but he hasn’t seen the report yet.

Bay Ferries said it carried 50,185 passengers during the 2018 season — a figure that was a 21 per cent increase over 2017.

— With files from the Canadian Press

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

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