Ferry company turns to province for help in satisfying American requirements

Published on February 21, 2014
The Nova Star.

Nova Star Cruises has turned to the province of Nova Scotia for help in satisfying American regulations that – with just over two months to go before the service is slated to begin – prevents the company from advertising rates and taking reservations.

The province says it will have an answer for the company at the start of next week.

The United States Federal Maritime Commission is requiring that the company prove that it can refund customer tickets for cancelled crossings.

Until it can do so the company isn’t allowed to include fares on its website, it can’t move forward with its reservations system and it’s even had to take down it’s Facebook page at the request of the American commission.

The province’s minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism, Michel Samson, says the company has to have the security in place before they can start selling tickets.

The provincial government is reviewing the financial request the company has made. Samson says he believes the amount being requested to be $2 million, which would be held by the U.S government as a security against ticket sales.

The province has already committed up to $21 million for the resumption of the ferry service. Whether this request is over and above that amount is something the government is studying. Samson suggests it would be within that $21 million envelop.

Samson says the company has indicated this security requirement was not known to them at the time they were negotiating the service with the province. He says it was unknown to the province as well.

The company reached the initial deal for ferry service with the previous NDP government.

Samson says the government is hoping to have the matter addressed very soon.

He says the province remains committed to seeing the ferry service resume.

Progressive Conservative House Leader Chris d’Entremont says the minister has some explaining to do.

“The Minister must provide clarity, it the May 1 start date in jeopardy?” says d’Entremont.

“We are just weeks from the start of the spring tourism season and tourists can’t even find out the fare,” says d’Entremont. “Nova Scotia cannot afford to lose another tourism season without this ferry.”

He says the Progressive Conservative caucus is fully supportive of restoring ferry service in Yarmouth. But d'Entremont adds it is the Minister's duty to fully understand the details.

D’Entremont says if the province takes on the responsibility of the refund, Nova Scotians deserve to know if that money will be in addition to the committed investment.

“The minister needs to be up front about the financial commitment,” he says. “We have a right to know our full investment.”

Officials with Nova Star Cruises continue to maintain they are on target for May 1 start-up date.