Nova Scotia to make new effort to find ferry operator

Yarmouth-US-Ferry Panel Report-mapMARCH 5, 2013 — The Government of Nova Scotia, Canada, says the province will continue its efforts to find a qualified company to run a new ferry service in Yarmouth, and will appoint a team of tourism, community and business leaders to help make southwestern Nova Scotia even more attractive to tourists. This comes after a request for proposals for the service attracted two submissions. After a thorough evaluation, the evaluation committee found neither met the minimum criteria.

The decision to look for an operator for a new ferry followed after a December 18, 2009 announcement by Bay Ferries Limited that it would drop its Yarmouth-Maine ferry (the
CAT) after the Province of Nova Scotia decided to cease subsidizing the mounting losses of the service. This ended a sea link between Yarmouth and the U.S. going back to the 1880s and that had been in continuous operation since the Bluenose service was initiated in 1956.

"We know this is disappointing news and I share in this disappointment, however, we are not giving up on a new ferry in Yarmouth." said Percy Paris, Minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism. "People in southwestern Nova Scotia want to see a viable ferry service in Yarmouth. So does this government. Nova Scotians living in this region deserve the right service, one they can count on being there for the long-term."

The province's new procurement process will focus on a 2014 start date, as recommended by the expert panel the province asked to advise on the conditions needed for a viable ferry service. Companies will also have more time to respond.

"This process will provide more time, and more opportunity to work directly with interested parties during the process," said Mr. Paris.

The province will work closely with the Nova Scotia International Ferry Partnership to promote the opportunity to ferry companies.

"We are pleased that the search to find the right operator for the Yarmouth-to-Maine ferry service will continue. We have heard from ferry companies that may be interested in this opportunity, but said timing was an issue for a variety of reasons," said Keith Condon, chair, Nova Scotia International Ferry Partnership. "We recognize the urgency of getting an operator in place, but we especially recognize the importance of getting the right operator. We look forward to supporting the province's efforts."

The province is prepared to commit as much as $21 million to support setting up a new cruise ferry in Yarmouth as long as certain conditions are met. The conditions include a sound business plan from a qualified operator showing a viable, profitable service within seven years, as well as timely support from the federal government.

"I appreciate the province's efforts thus far to find a ferry operator and am pleased that the commitment to the search will continue," said Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood. "The urgency of the issue remains, and it's important we stay positive and focused on the next steps. I look forward to a continued working relationship with the province in this regard."

The province will appoint a team to implement the expert panel's tourism recommendations, and focus on making southwestern Nova Scotia even more attractive to tourists. In its report, the panel said enhancing the tourism experience in southwest Nova Scotia is key to creating the conditions needed for a viable service. This will help attract a qualified operator for a cruise ferry in Yarmouth.

The team will have representatives from the tourism industry and community and business leaders. More details, including team members, will be available in the coming weeks.

An expert panel reviewed studies and met with people and groups to identify the conditions needed for a viable ferry service. In its report, Re-Establishing a Yarmouth Ferry? An Analysis of the Issues, released Sept. 7, the panel said a cruise service could be viable in the long term if it:

  • provides a high-quality on-board experience
  • is supported with a sophisticated marketing strategy
  • leverages a strong tourist experience in southwest Nova Scotia

The expert panel's report is available at www.gov.ns.ca/econ/yarmouth-ferry-study.asp .

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