Nova Star departing Yarmouth for Portland. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
The province’s economic development minister will reportedly meet with the Maine governor to try and garner financial support state-side for the New England-Nova Scotia ferry service.
At the time of this posting no date had been set for the meeting between Michel Samson and Maine Governor Paul LePage.
The meeting will take place in Maine. The governor, incidentally, is in the midst of a re-election campaign with the vote slated for November.
The Vanguard tried to reach Samson for further comment on Friday but was told by a department spokesperson the minister was “not reachable.”
The Nova Scotia government has already forwarded all of the $21 million that had been set aside for the first seven years of the service to Nova Star Cruises.
The disbursement schedule included in the agreement between the province and the ferry company – prior to the service start-up – had been for $12 million to be distributed in the first year and $1.5 million each year that followed up to year seven.
Samson was reported in the media on Thursday as having said the responsible thing to do on behalf of Nova Scotians is to see how the province can develop partnerships to reduce the financial burden on this province.
Part of the money advanced by the province to the ferry company was $5 million that the company had accounted for in its business plans. In July 2013, prior to the start of the service – and prior to the Nova Scotia government selecting the successful ferry operator – Governor LePage had written a letter to then-premier Darrell Dexter declaring his support for the proposal put forward by the Maine company, which was then going by the name STM Quest Navigation but now refers to itself as Nova Star Cruises. If the Maine company ended up being the successful operator chosen to run the ferry service, part of the support the governor outlined in his letter was assisting the company in securing a $5 million line of credit.
But that hadn’t transpired when the service started in May.
The ferry service got off to a slow start, with around 9,715 passengers in the first six weeks in May and June. In July there were 13,094 passengers for the month and as of Aug. 15 the company so far had 17,255 passengers booked for trips during August.
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Nova Star has capacity for 1,215 passengers onboard the vessel, but the company has said during the peak months it is aiming for daily passenger loads of 500 to 700. The ferry makes a round trip over a 24 hour-period.
With the morning departure of the vessel, the accommodations sector in Yarmouth is reporting the best numbers it has had in years, even dating back to previous ferry services, which didn’t have morning departures. Other local businesses say the ferry impact varies.
Other parts of the province are reporting business impact associated with the ferry passengers.
The majority of provisions used on the boat are purchased in Portland, including the fuel. The crew on board is international.
Jobs associated with the ferry in Yarmouth include those at the reservation call centre, company jobs at the terminal building and security and stevedores. Regarding the call centre, there are 20 people working full-time taking reservations for the ferry and the Nova Star Discovery program.
"We have been so busy they are all getting full time hours. We had thought we would have a combination of full and part time however we were able to give everyone full-time hours," says Clark Squires of Intergy, the company contracted to handle the bookings.
The service is slated to run to Nov. 2 this season.
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