Nova Star ferry to stay in Canada while winter route is decided

In a last-minute change, the ferry service ditches its plan to move the ship to Florida for the season.

Nova Star ferry to stay in Canada while winter route is decided
The Nova Star ferry finished the season with a passenger count of 59,000. The operator initially had hoped for 100,000. Amelia Kunhardt/2014 Press Herald file

Nov. 15, 2014 – The Nova Star, which had been scheduled to depart Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, on Saturday for Florida, has changed its course and will now head to Shelburne, Nova Scotia.

The vessel will be moored in Shelburne as the company awaits a decision on an off-season route.

A company spokesman had said on Thursday that the ferry would move to Fort Pierce, Florida, while its owners negotiated for an off-season route.

However, a berth in Shelburne became available and the decision was made to move the ferry there, company spokesman Dennis Bailey said Friday.

The $165 million vessel was to have left Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and head south because the boat’s heating system must be maintained to protect the ship’s operating systems.

Bailey said the company is now in “advanced negotiations” with another company for a winter route. Information about that route will be announced when a deal is finalized, he said.

It’s unclear why the ferry is leaving Yarmouth Harbor, where the vessel has been berthed since its season ended on Oct. 13, three weeks ahead of its scheduled conclusion. Bailey would not say why the company is moving the ship. Located on the southeast side of the Nova Scotia peninsula, Shelburne is only 60 miles from Yarmouth by road.

One possible explanation is that the lobster fishing season in Nova Scotia starts on Nov. 24. Yarmouth is a fishing hub, and Nova Star’s docking lines have been an obstacle for many fishing boats.

A winter route would provide Nova Star Cruises with much-needed revenue and save the company the cost of winter storage.

The ferry carried 59,000 passengers in its inaugural season, well short of the company’s goal of 100,000 passengers.

The Nova Scotia government had planned to advance the company $21 million (Canadian) in forgivable loans over seven years.

But the ferry operator spent all that money in the first season. The provincial government allocated another $5 million so the company could pay its bills. The company has sought help from Gov. Paul LePage in getting a loan from a commercial bank in Maine.

In September, the company’s CEO and president, Mark Amundsen, at a public event in Portland, said the company had found a winter route, which would be announced in a week. But no announcement has been made to date.
Media Contact:
TOM BELL
Staff Writer
Portland Press Herald
Tel: 207-791-6369
Email: tbell@pressherald.com
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