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The season that wasn’t: CAT ferry ends 2019 without a commercial crossing

‘We’re still very hopeful’: province not yet waving white flag on CAT season
Summer is just about over and the Yarmouth ferry has yet to run, but Nova Scotia's provincial government still isn't prepared to call the sailing season a bust.

There will be no commercial crossings for the ferry between Yarmouth, N.S., and Bar Harbor, Maine, in 2019, the operator of the service confirmed on Friday.

Bay Ferries CEO Mark MacDonald confirmed in an email that there will be no sailings this year and that “good progress” is being made to complete upgrades to the Bar Harbor ferry terminal.

The announcement regarding the service, known as the CAT ferry, comes after a tough day in front of media at the legislature for Nova Scotia’s Transportation Minister Lloyd Hines.

READ MORE: Province focused on 2020 as season for Nova Scotia to Maine ferry dwindles away

Hines did not answer repeated and direct questions about whether a crossing would happen this fall.

“We’re real disappointed that we haven’t been able to get the service going,” said Hines.

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The CAT’s 2019 season has been plagued by setbacks due to the decision to move the service’s American port of call.

For the past three seasons, the ferry has sailed between Yarmouth and Portland, Maine. But the decision was made late last year to switch from Portland to Bar Harbor.

Bay Ferries said the impetus for the port switch was potential savings in fuel costs because of a shorter trip.

Service for the season was originally set to begin on June 21 before being delayed a month, then being put off indefinitely and now ultimately being cancelled.

Transportation minister focused on 2020 sailing season for Yarmouth to Maine
Transportation minister focused on 2020 sailing season for Yarmouth to Maine

The heavily subsidized ferry has been docked amid the delays on the American side of the border.

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The move was plagued by delays from the start, mainly due to requirements by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which ordered specific renovations to the Bar Harbor terminal building before it would put agents in place to process ferry passengers.

The work forced the ferry’s operator to cancel and delay bookings several times before finally suspending them in July.

The ongoing renovations at the Bar Harbor ferry terminal include the demolition of existing buildings outside the terminal’s customs area, as well as several outbuildings and portions of the ferry terminal’s interior.

Equipment and technology required by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a new fixed bridge and a floating ferry ramp are also being installed, and repairs are being made to the existing terminal.

The terminal upgrades are projected to cost about $8.5 million, but the province is also considering a subsidy in the range of $11.4 million for Bay Ferries, a figure first reported by AllNovaScotia.com.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia not yet waving white flag on CAT season

MacDonald said that “all parties are working for the long term and 2020.”

The CAT is operated by Bay Ferries as part of a 10-year deal with the Nova Scotia government made in 2016.

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With files from The Canadian Press and Jeremy Keefe