All is quiet at the Yarmouth ferry terminal. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
The request for proposals for a ferry service in Yarmouth closed on Thursday afternoon, Jan. 24, and the government says two companies have submitted proposals to set up and run a commercially viable ferry service between Yarmouth and the United States.
The government says that proposals were received from Quest Navigation Inc. and Maritime Applied Physics Corporation. In a media release that was issued by the government there was no information provided about either of these companies.
The proposals will be evaluated, with criteria in the request for proposals, by a committee of representatives from provincial departments and the private sector. The evaluation will take about one month.
"Many people living in southwest Nova Scotia have told me they want a stable ferry service in Yarmouth that they can count on being there for the long-term. This is what we want, too," said Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Sterling Belliveau, on behalf of Rural and Economic Development and Tourism Minister Percy Paris.
"I'm pleased that we have received proposals. We need to ensure that, if there is a new ferry service, it will be the right one for Nova Scotia – viable and stable in the long term, and in the best interests of taxpayers."
The request for proposals, part of the province's plan to attract a qualified ferry operator through a thorough, transparent competitive process, closed at 2 p.m. on Jan. 24.
The province has said it will provide up to $21 million over seven years to an experienced ferry operator with a sound business plan showing a ferry service that will be sustainable within seven years.
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"The province has taken proactive steps to attract a ferry operator to run a sustainable service," said Belliveau. "But we can't do this alone. For this to be successful, several factors need to be in place, including timely support from the federal government and a viable plan from an experienced ferry company.
"The continued support from residents, businesses and municipalities of southwest Nova Scotia, whose passion we've seen over these past three years, is also important."
An expert panel, reviewed studies and met with people and groups to identify the conditions needed for a viable ferry service. In its report, 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 south west Nova Scotia
The province consulted with potential bidders, and issued a draft request for proposals Oct. 23, for input. It was used to refine the final request for proposals, and make sure it was comprehensive and clear.
(NOTE TO READERS: More to come about the request for proposals.)