The Nova Star.
By Tina Comeau
Nova Star Cruises says plans are being developed to have the Nova Star ferry visit Yarmouth before the sailing season begins.
Meanwhile, in spite of doubts that many in the public have concerning the start-up date of the service, the company continues to say that May 1 is the target start-up for the Portland-to-Yarmouth ferry run. Asked on March 7 if there has been any consideration to delaying the start of the service given issues that are still being worked out, company spokesperson Sean Lewis said, “Nova Star Cruises is still working towards a May 1 start.”
And at a Yarmouth and Area Chamber of Commerce meeting on Thursday, March 6, Danny Morton, the director of cruise marketing and business development with Nova Star Cruises, told those in attendance, “I am here to tell you that, as of today, we’re sailing May 1.”
One main issue that still needs to be worked out is the required approval for the service by the United States’ Federal Maritime Commission. The commission would not allow Nova Star Cruises to advertise fares or start taking reservations until it had a financial bond in place that could compensate ferry travellers in the event of cancelled tickets. The province of Nova Scotia assisted the ferry company by freeing up $2 million – of the up to $21 million the province has committed towards the ferry service – so it can be held in a reserve if needed.
But the ferry company still has to have an application approved by the American commission. According to recent media reports, the application phase can take 60 days to process. As of March 7 the application had not been submitted.
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“Nova Star Cruises is now working with the province of Nova Scotia and the bonding company to finalize agreements related to the release of the bond,” explained Lewis. “Upon completion of these agreements the final application will be submitted to the Federal Maritime Commission.
“The Federal Maritime Commission has been very supportive and helpful throughout the application process,” he added. “They have reviewed our draft application documents and it is our understanding that they will make every effort to expedite the approvals process upon receipt of our final application. All parties are working together to get this done as soon as possible.”
The Federal Maritime Commission has said there are instances where applications can be processed in under 60 days.
As for when the ferry will be coming to North America, Lewis said on Friday that the ship was still at ST Marine’s shipyard in Singapore.
“It is receiving modifications and paint before starting the voyage to North America in mid-March, arriving in mid-April,” he said. Modification work for the casino will be needed once it arrives.
Nova Star Cruises recently announced that Century Casinos Inc., an international casino entertainment company, would be outfitting and running the casino onboard the ferry and that an alliance has been formed with Intergy Applied Hospitality Solutions of Bedford, N.S. for the running of the ferry’s reservations system.