The Nova Star, the ship that has been identified to sail between Yarmouth and Portland, in her berth.
By Carla Allen
Yarmouth and Bar Harbor, Maine were connected for decades by the Bluenose and later the Cat ferry service but now that there’s talk of a ferry service resuming between Maine and Yarmouth next May, Bar Harbor is not the port of choice.
Portland is the port selected by STM Quest, the company the province announced on Sept. 5 that it has signed an agreement with to provide ferry service between Yarmouth and Maine.
Bob Garland, a Bar Harbor town councillor, says there was some hope that the future service would resume for their port, but that he wouldn’t characterize it as “strong.”
“We realize that, as a stand-alone activity, the numbers just are not there to support renewed ferry service from Bar Harbor to Yarmouth.
“If, however, we are fortunate enough to come to a meeting of the minds with Marine Atlantic regarding purchase of the ferry terminal in Bar Harbor, we do see a future for that facility as a pier for cruise ships. Our vision also encompasses dual-utilization of the facility as a ferry terminus once again, should that eventuality come to pass,” he said.
Paul Paradis was council’s designated member for the development of the ferry terminal. He said that Bar Harbor would have loved to have been chosen as a route partner for the new service.
“However with much study, the consultants and their clients in Nova Scotia and beyond decided that the most sensible business decision for this new venture lie with Portland as their partner destination.
“We wish them the very best of luck with this new initiative and look forward to seeing a lively service tying Maine to the Canadian Maritimes,” he said.
In a 2012 report by a panel that analyzed the issues associated with the re-establishment of a Yarmouth – US ferry, service to both Bar Harbor and Portland was described as a source of some confusion in the market.
Canadian National introduced the first regular ferry service via the Bluenose between Yarmouth and Bar Harbor in 1956.
Marine Atlantic took over the service in 1986, followed by Bay Ferries in 1997, which introduced the high-speed Cat in 1998.
The province encouraged Bay Ferries to add the Yarmouth-Portland route in 2006, after the Scotia Prince announced ont the eve of the 2005 sailing season that it was discontinuing the service.
The 2012 study determined that Portland is significantly more accessible than Bar Harbor from the main US population centres.
Because the cruise time from Portland is 75 per cent longer, the voyage justifies a higher fare and affords more time for a cruise experience, with greater opportunity to generate on-board revenue, the report said.
Bar Harbor’s port facilities would need refurbishment, while Portland’s are pretty well ready for a ferry. A Nov. 30, 2010, inspection by the Maine Department of Transportation determined that pilings beneath the Bar Harbor pier were in poor shape and rated only four on a scale of one to nine.
Portland is also a growing cultural and business center in northern New England, with Amtrak rail service and an airport, thus making it an increasingly attractive destination for visitors from Nova Scotia, creating a potential “reverse tourism” flow that would add traffic to a ferry.
The proposed schedule by STM Quest, the company the province has reached the agreement with for ferry service, would see the ferry operate from May 1 to Oct. 31, departing Yarmouth daily at 9 a.m. and arriving in Portland at 5 p.m., local time. The return trip would leave Portland at 8 p.m. and arrive in Yarmouth at 7 a.m., local time. The accommodations sector in Yarmouth likes the schedule because a 9 a.m. departure time from Yarmouth will generate overnight business.