© TINA COMEAU PHOTO
Vehicles lined up in Yarmouth to board the Nova Star ferry when it operated in Yarmouth.
YARMOUTH – An official with Bay Ferries says “the market for ships is challenging," but says the company is working hard to secure a vessel to sail between Yarmouth and Portland later this year.
“We are working diligently, along with a lot of other people, to identify what tonnage might be available,” Don Cormier, vice president of operations for Bay Ferries told the Yarmouth Vanguard on Jan. 7.
Cormier said he couldn’t offer a lot of other comment on the situation.
“We understand everybody’s wanting to know something. Our company is working diligently in securing (a vessel) and until that’s done we don’t think it’s appropriate for us to comment or speculate,” Cormier said. “We’ve heard lots of speculation out there.
“We’re working with brokers, we’re working with companies we know, we’re exploring all options out there to secure a ship,” he said. “That’s the only thing that can be said at this point.”
Earlier in the week the province’s minister of Transportation and Public Works, Geoff MacLellan, said he’s not concerned that a vessel hasn’t been secured yet.
“Given the fact that Bay Ferries is out there, they’re in the market, they’re in daily contact with brokers internationally and they’ve obviously committed to this service for 2016 and beyond, we’re not concerned that the 45-day window has closed,” MacLellan said, referring to a timeframe for securing a vessel that had been included in the announcement late last October that Bay Ferries was the preferred candidate to operate ferry service between Nova Scotia and Maine.
“Mark MacDonald (president and CEO) and Bay Ferries are working to get this right and we’re going to give them every opportunity,” MacLellan said. “There’s no concern or fears coming from Bay Ferries with respect to the timeline for 2016, so if they’re confident, we’re confident.”
But not having a ship yet, and not having details about the upcoming season, is making people feel nervous. Cormier says he understands this and that Bay Ferries is going through a process to find a boat.
Until a vessel is secured, contract negotiations between the province and Bay Ferries can’t be finalized, so questions over the schedule, rates and the amount of subsidy from the province remain.
Even without a vessel, however, Cormier says Bay Ferries is preparing for the coming sailing season.
“Obviously there are some things that you can’t execute on or confirm until you have a ship identified and you know exactly what asset you’re operating, but we’re doing all of our planning and we’ve been doing that since last fall,” he said.
A planning session with Nova Scotia Tourism scheduled for Friday is an example of this.
Cormier said Bay Ferries is happy to be returning to the ferry route sailing in and out of Yarmouth. Bay Ferries operated ferry service between Nova Scotia and Maine from 1997 to 2009.
“It goes without saying that our company has always been dedicated to providing ferry infrastructure for Nova Scotians,” he said about why the company decided to pursue this ferry service again. “We felt that we were in a position to use our experience. The people that have contributed to the service in the past, we’re excited to potentially rekindle those relationships and to operate the service in the future.”
Cormier was in Yarmouth on Thursday to meet with people in the trucking and seafood industry about concerns industry has over the capacity, or lack thereof, on board the Fundy Rose ferry that sails between Digby and Saint John. The ferry, which is new to service, can only accommodate about half of the trucks that the Princess of Acadia did. The trucking industry wants to see more second crossings added to the ferry route to be able to move more commercial traffic instead of forcing trucks to have to make the long drive to get to markets. That meeting was underway at the time of this posting.