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Yarmouth-to-Maine ferry to return to waters ahead of 2022 season

Click to play video: 'NS PC Leader Tim Houston talks virtual AGM, Yarmouth to Maine ferry'
NS PC Leader Tim Houston talks virtual AGM, Yarmouth to Maine ferry
We chat with PC Leader Tim Houston on the heels of the PC Party virtual AGM this weekend. – Feb 22, 2021

A troubled ferry operating between Yarmouth, N.S., and Bar Harbour, Maine, will return to northeast waters in preparation for its first season in four years.

The last two sailing seasons for the CAT ferry were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while the 2019 season was scrapped due to ongoing construction at the Bar Harbor terminal.

Earlier this month, Bay Ferries Ltd., which operates the provincially-subsidized ferry service, said it will start again in the spring of 2022.

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In a release Friday, Bay Ferries said the CAT will return to Bar Harbour in Maine followed by Yarmouth, N.S., between Oct. 23 and 27. It will undertake regulatory certification of crew members, technical trials, and in-dock testing.

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“We are very excited to take this concrete step toward returning to ferry service next year,” said Bay Ferries spokesperson Rhonda Latter in the release.

It said residents of Bar Harbour and Yarmouth can expect to see the ship undertaking multiple entries and exits from port, both during the day and at night, during the training and certification period. It said these activities are subject to weather and sea conditions.

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When in operation, the ship will be based and supplied in Yarmouth. It will depart Yarmouth in the morning and return to the town in the early evening.

The CAT is based in Charleston, South Carolina in the off-season.

Bay Ferries says details of the 2022 operating schedule, pricing and other information will be released in the coming months.

Keeping the CAT afloat

The international ferry route operated for more than half a century before ending in 2009, when the Nova Scotia government briefly eliminated an annual subsidy. In 2018, Bay Ferries announced plans to relocate its U.S entry point from Portland, Maine, to Bar Harbor.

Governments of all stripes in Nova Scotia have spent millions of dollars to keep the ferry service to the U.S. afloat in recent years, including $8.5 million on renovations for the Maine terminal under the previous Liberal government.

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Pam Mood, the mayor of Yarmouth, has said the southwestern Nova Scotia port town relies heavily on tourism and the economic spinoffs generated by the ferry service.

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In February, Bay Ferries was ordered to release the management fees it receives from the Nova Scotia government.

The private ferry operator said under a deal dated April 1, 2018, it is paid $97,500 per month by the provincial government, equalling $1.17 million annually.

The release of the information was the result of a Nova Scotia Supreme Court case launched by then-Progressive Conservative Leader and current Premier Tim Houston.

The province has a contract with Bay Ferries through to 2025.

Nova Scotia had originally budgeted $16.3 million for the 2020 sailing season.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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