Bay Ferries releases updated ridership numbers for Nova Scotia-Maine ferry service

Click to play video: 'The Cat ferry begins sail to new port in Maine' The Cat ferry begins sail to new port in Maine
For the first time since 2018, the Cat ferry is sailing again, this time to a brand new port in Maine. The Cat has always been a controversial file in the political ring, but as sailing begins, there's a sense of optimism that American tourism can help the province rebound from the pandemic. – May 19, 2022

Bay Ferries has released updated numbers for passengers who used the ferry between Yarmouth, N.S., and Bar Harbor, Maine, so far this season.

In a release, the company said the Cat ferry transported 15,620 passengers and 6,462 vehicles as of Aug. 1. The ferry made its first trip of the season on May 19.

The ferry, which costs taxpayers more than $1 million per year to run, has made 55 round trips during the season so far, and has had two weather-related cancellations. The Cat has a capacity of 866 passengers and 200 vehicles per trip.

The release noted that “as expected,” July totals represented approximately 63 per cent of traffic to date, with 10,051 passengers and 3,994 vehicles.

Read more: N.S. releases passenger numbers for 1st month of 2022 Cat ferry season

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“August has traditionally always been a stronger month than July and, based on past patterns and current bookings, Bay Ferries estimates it will carry 13,000-16,000 passengers during August,” the release said.

“Based on current bookings and historical sales after August 1 for previous years in operation (from another port) since 2016, this suggests annual traffic in the range of 37,000-44,000 passengers.”

Also as of Aug. 1, Bay Ferries Limited has sold tickets for 28,538 passengers who will travel on the ferry throughout the 2022 operating season.

However, the company said the “market continues to evolve” and it is noticing a “cautiousness in the market,” with the majority of customers booking and travelling within a two-to-three-week advance window.

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia releases passenger numbers for 1st month of 2022 Cat ferry season' Nova Scotia releases passenger numbers for 1st month of 2022 Cat ferry season
Nova Scotia releases passenger numbers for 1st month of 2022 Cat ferry season – Jun 17, 2022

The release said after service was relaunched in 2016, there was “successive growth” in the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Bay Ferries projects that 2022 final numbers will fall between the 2016 and 2018 season totals, “even with the three-year service hiatus.”

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“However, we continue to be cautious due to ever changing external conditions,” it said, listing rising fuel prices and inflation, evolving adaptation to COVID-19, and encumbrances — or “perceived encumbrances” — of international cross-border travel.

First season in four years

This is the Cat’s first season in four years.

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

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.

Read more: Canada to U.S. ferry service set to resume in 2022 after three year hiatus

In February, Bay Ferries was ordered to release the management fees it receives from the Nova Scotia government following a successful court case launched by the Tories while they were still the Opposition.

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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 province is bound to a contract with Bay Ferries, which was entered into by the former Liberal government in 2018. The contract is set to run until 2026.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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