By Tina Comeau
The province will be holding a briefing session Tuesday, Nov. 20, with potential proponents who have expressed interest in answering a request for proposals (RFP) to re-establish ferry service between Yarmouth and Maine.
The briefing will take place at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax from 10 a.m. to noon.
The Vanguard was not told by the government how many potential proponents will be taking part, but Percy Paris, the minister of the Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism, said the government and this region share the same desire.
“People in southwestern Nova Scotia want to see a viable, successful and stable ferry between Yarmouth and the United States. So does this government,” he said. “We have had interest in the draft RFP and briefing session from potential bidders. The session is one of the ways we’re engaging and consulting with potential bidders.”
Potential bidders are being given until the end of this month to provide feedback on the draft RFP.
“After that we will consider the input we have received, make any revisions and finalize the tender,” said Paris. “Once that’s complete we’ll then issue the final RFP.”
In addition to the in-person briefing, operators can also request meetings and or video/conference calls with the province.
Feedback is also being accepted via email.
The draft request for proposals was issued by the province on Oct. 23, which was about six weeks after a panel that reviewed the ferry issue released a report in which it determined that with the right conditions, the right type of vessel, and leveraging a strong tourism experience, a cruise ferry service can be viable in the long-term.
The government says the successful operator will need to present a plan that shows a ferry service will be profitable within seven years, that reflects the winning conditions set out by the panel, and that will meet the requirements for the province's support package
In December 2009 the NDP government stopped providing provincial funding to Bay Ferries, which was operating the Cat ferry service in and out of Yarmouth. The government said that ferry service was not viable, although it would be open to discussions about a new service if it could be shown that it could be a viable and sustainable service.
On the day the ferry panel report was released to the public, the province said it is was prepared to commit up to $21 million over seven years towards a long-term service that is run by a qualified operator. The province also said it needs assistance from the federal government, as well as continued support from the municipalities, businesses and residents of southwest Nova Scotia.
The ferry panel report estimated that there would be about $5 million in start-up costs. In addition to this a federal government study indicated that up to $13 million would be needed to repair and refurbish the Yarmouth terminal facilities, which are owned by the federal government.