Economic and Rural Development and Tourism Minister Graham Steele emerged from two days of meetings with Maine state and local representatives reassured that officials there support the resumption of the Yarmouth to Maine ferry service.
"I'm really pleased with the response," said Steele in an interview with the Vanguard at the end of his meetings.
He said the visit has reinforced, “the importance of making sure our marketing campaigns work together in a synergistic way.”
“We are all drawing from the same market,” he told the Vanguard on Tuesday evening at the conclusion of two days of meetings in Portland, Maine.
That market extends throughout New England and the eastern seaboard.
“Nova Scotia and Maine have a common interest in working together to get the maximum benefits from our respective markets,” he said.
His meetings wrapped up Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 21. While in Portland, he met with Maine Governor Paul LePage, Portland Mayor Michael Brennan, and other senior state officials. Steele also toured the Ocean Gateway Ferry Terminal, where a new ferry would dock in Portland.
"They're excited about the prospect of a re-established ferry link, and are ready to do their part to make it happen," he said in a media release.
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In addition to the meetings with Governor LePage and Mayor Brennan, Steele met with representatives from the Maine Department of Transportation, the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, State of Maine Tourism, the Maine International Trade Center and the Maine Port Authority.
Three companies submitted business plans to operate the ferry service from Yarmouth to Maine. After an evaluation team of representatives of the Nova Scotia International Ferry Partnership and the province reviewed the plans, they recommended the province enter into negotiations with STM Quest, a proposed joint venture of ST Marine Ltd. and Quest Navigation. Those negotiations have begun.
The $165 million vessel, built in Singapore, would be renamed the Nova Star. It would have two restaurants and a maximum capacity for 1,215 passengers. It is larger than the vessels that operated between Portland and Yarmouth from 1982 to 2004.
Steele said negotiations are underway with the partnership and going well. If they have not wrapped up by week’s end, there is a plan to bring the teams negotiating the agreement to Yarmouth next week, but details have not been finalized.