Nova Star funding package was not realistic, minister says

Carla Allen
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A group of kayakers wave to those aboard the Nova Star as the ferry departs Yarmouth.

$21 million spent

Ten weeks after starting service, the operators of the Nova Star ferry have drained the barrel of money that was promised them over seven years.

On Thursday, the province authorized the expenditure of the remaining $2.1 million left from the envelope of $21 million announced by the NDP government last September.

Economic and Rural Development Minister Michel Samson said it had become very evident to cabinet that the deal announced by the previous government was more of a political deal than a natural economical, reality deal.

“Anyone who looks at ferry services that exist in North America, pretty well every one of them is subsidized,” he said.

“They are part of transportation links like our roads and highways and they require money. They don’t make money,” he said. Minister Samson used the Saint John/Digby ferry service, the Newfoundland ferries and P.E.I. ferry as examples, saying those are transportation links that governments have to pay money to maintain.

“Looking back at the time we had concerns when the deal was announced but when we got into office we wanted to do our best to see it through and give the deal a chance.

“ It became blatantly obvious today that this deal was unrealistic from Day One and we’ve now already reached the maximum amount of money that was set aside for this,” he said.

The funding being provided is for the operation of the ferry. With revenue based on ridership, the fixed costs that are encountered on a daily/monthly basis have to be addressed.

Minister Samson pointed out that of the $21 million envelope provided, there were unanticipated pressures that included a $2-million bond requested by the US government from the company, as well as a $5-million line of credit, committed by the governor of Maine, which has yet to be realized.

Minister Samson said the province plans on continuing to have discussions with the operator.

“Obviously we made a commitment to restoring the Yarmouth ferry service. We’re going to continue to make this thing a success.”

Mark Amundsen, president and CEO, Nova Star Cruises, says Nova Star Cruises continues to work with the Province of Nova Scotia as it focuses on rebuilding the ferry service between Nova Scotia and Maine.

 “Our goal was to reintroduce this service after many years and get re-established after a four-year hiatus of a ferry between Portland and Yarmouth,” he said.

“ It became blatantly obvious today that this deal was unrealistic from Day One and we’ve now already reached the maximum amount of money that was set aside for this.” Economic and Rural Development Minister Michel Samson on $21 million for Nova Star ferry funding

He added that there have been several significant challenges and that operators know it will take more than the first year to rebuild.

“We have required the committed funds to get the service established and we continue to be in ongoing conversations with officials from the province.”

 He says the start-up of getting the service online has been significant and they are working to build the service and the ridership. Although the start was slower than expected, the company has received “exceptional” visitor feedback on the Nova Star voyage experience.

“As soon as summer arrived, the ticket bookings have significantly increased.”

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Recent comments

  • Andrew Steeves
    July 26, 2014 - 20:27

    I'm so miffed. Right now I'm in Scranton, PA and was gonna take the ferry from Portland tomorrow night. The young lady on the 1-866 call centre was so pushy I felt I was at an Amway meeting. She told me I'd have to book an ocean view room at 100 more. Oh ya a lot to see in the gulf of Maine in the middle of the night. 700 American they want for me and my wife with motorcycles one way. We are now gonna take an extra day and drive to Saint John.

  • Tom - summer resident
    July 26, 2014 - 11:47

    I'm not sure why they didn't step up the service - only run a few days a week to start and then ramp it up as demand increased. Was it requirement in the RFP that it run every day? I've taken the ferry twice and there were 33 people on it the second trip - that was in mid-June. They really should consider a staggered schedule next year.

  • Richard Deschene
    July 25, 2014 - 12:01

    I agree with the minister's point that all sections of (non-toll) road and ferry links are paid for by tax dollars. Hopefully the province and port will keep a very good track of ridership levels, how many visitors this brought to the province, how many respond they are likely to use the ferry again or would not have come to N.S. if it wasn't for the ferry and the amount they spent while in the province. That is the kind of quantitative data required to objectively determine whether $20-$25 million/year can be justified based on added tourism dollar income and provincial tax revenue.

  • Mark in Maine
    July 25, 2014 - 09:13

    Part of the issue is that there are comparatively few ferries lying around in mothball fleets waiting to be used; the new SORAS regulations that came out essentially made all the older ships obsolete and uneconomical to retrofit. The Scotia Prince herself has gone to the breakers, in fact. So essentially Quest had to propose using an all-new ship, and the Nova Star was what there was to be had. Is it possible for anyone there in Nova Scotia to get the competing proposals from the government, or are they sealed as "trade secrets" or some such? It would be interesting to see what P&O proposed for the route. FWIW, I got to ride on Nova Star in June, and although I regret that on an immediate round-trip there were only a few minutes to visit Yarmouth, I did have a great time on the ship.

  • g comeau
    July 25, 2014 - 08:29

    Unreal , to think that all of the money is already spent just stupid , stupid !!!!!!!. Instead of really waiting and getting a boat for the job and not a glorified tug boat ?. I am really disappointed in this whole boat thing . People from the states are not going to come to yarmouth to go shopping at walmart no I am sorry . they hardly have the money in the states now to live . the major prob for yarmouth is our government not keeping our workers down here and paying them decent wages ! . Then it would pay to have a boat in yarmouth , but with no economy and bring in such a huge boat ? , please !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! . How stupid can you be really !!!!!!!!!!!! how stupid ! .

  • Lilly Tyler
    July 25, 2014 - 06:42

    I live in New Brunswick, but have family in that area of Nova Scotia. This is the first photo I have seen of the ferry. My goodness, it DOES certainly look a tad exce$$ive ..... Honestly, can the governments EVER do anything right?

  • Stefan Giesen
    July 24, 2014 - 20:46

    I am wondering why the ferries over here in USA and Canada have to be subsidized? I am originaly from Germany, and there is a ferry service operating between Germany and Norway (which is actually even a little bit further than the trip the Nova Star makes) and as far as I know, they are a quite profitable private business - and cheaper as well. They have special offers like this: FYI: €149 (the price per person including meals) are about $216 Canadian. The price for a one-way trip for two people (in a cabin, not a sleeping chair), one standard car and even two of the shows they show on board: €269 - about CAN$ 390 - tax already included. And this is on one of their cruise ferries (either on the Color Fantasy - see - or on the Color MAgic - see - which is the biggest cruiseferry in the world, the Color Fantasy being the second biggest). And the Color Fantasy is really a ferry (altogether it's about twice the capacity of the Nova Star): Capacity: Passengers 2750 968 cabins 2799 passenger beds Vehicles 750 car capacity 1280 lanemeters OK, there are more people in Norway than in Nova Scotia - but the US has much more people than Germany. And make no mistake: Norway is really EXPENSIVE for a Gemran tourist (as far as I know, it is the second most expensive country in the world - immediately after Japan)! Nova Scotia is cheap for an US tourist in comparision. Obviously they are doing something differently over there in Europe. Maybe it would be a good idea to have a look what exactly that is?