Premier Darrell Dexter has announced that the province will soon put out an expression of interest seeking a private sector ferry operator willing to run a successful and profitable ferry between Portland, Maine, and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
Yet while the province says it will commit to a new cruise ferry operation for Yarmouth, it says it cannot do it alone. It will seek partners in the venture to revitalize the southwest Nova Scotia economy and bring more U.S. visitors to the province. A key partner is says need to climb on board is the federal government.
Premier Darrell Dexter, on Sept. 7, accepted the report from an expert ferry panel appointed in April. The report lays out the conditions under which a successful and profitable ferry service from Maine to Yarmouth can operate.
"I have said all along that the province would support a ferry service that could stand on its own, a service that could be successful and profitable," said Premier Dexter. "We now know that ferry could exist, with the right business model and the right partners."
The report illustrates the decline of the previous ferry operation due to decreased ridership and increased fuel costs. By 2009, Nova Scotians were covering the ferry's losses of almost $7 million annually.
However, the report indicates that a successful and profitable ferry service is possible with an operator who has a sophisticated marketing strategy, who can leverage a strong tourist experience in southwest Nova Scotia and provide a high-quality on-board experience for passengers.
Based on the conditions outlined in the report, the province is prepared to commit up to $21 million over seven years for a new cruise ferry operation in Yarmouth. Over the coming weeks, the province will put out a call for expressions of interest for potential private-sector ferry operators and will begin discussions with the federal government, business and municipal leaders in southwest Nova Scotia, and stakeholders in Maine.
"The province cannot do it alone this time," said Premier Dexter. "For this new Yarmouth ferry to work, the federal and municipal governments will need to come to the table, and businesses and residents of southwest Nova Scotia will need to throw their support behind it.
"Nova Scotia now has a plan for a successful, profitable and stable ferry service that can carry 130,000 people every year through southwest Nova Scotia. Now the work must begin to turn the vision in this report into reality."
The panel report estimates there will be about $5 million in start-up costs for baseline research, advertising, vessel acquisition and financing, and roughly $21 million will be needed to cover early years operating losses.
A federal government study indicates that up to $13 million would be needed to repair and refurbish the Yarmouth terminal facilities, owned by the federal government. With these investments in place, the panel report suggests that a new Yarmouth-Maine cruise ferry business could break even around the seventh year and achieve a modest profit after that.
The full ferry panel report is available online at www.gov.ns.ca/econ/yarmouth-ferry-study.asp.