Bay Ferries: no specifics on search for boat for Portland-Yarmouth run

Bus tour companies concerned, some cancellations have taken place

Carla Allen & Tina Comeau
Published on February 4, 2016
Bay Ferries CEO and president Mark MacDonald

YARMOUTH – When it comes to operating ferry service out of Yarmouth for the 2016 season and beyond, Bay Ferries says it's “doing everything we can to reach that goal.”

But the company still has no boat.

The company’s  reassurances in a Feb. 4 statement comes too late for some who have decided that no boat means no trip. An American tour company that had planned on reserving 28 rooms for two nights at the Rodd Grand in Yarmouth, two nights in Oak Island and one night in Wolfville, has cancelled its plans because of ferry uncertainty.

Natalie Flint, director of group operations with Friendship Tours, says the company had planned its trips for three different dates in June, July and September.

“When we heard in October that there would be a new operator, we held on,” she said. “We were hopeful, but now it’s February and they still don’t have a ferry in place. It’s hard to package and sell a program when we don’t know what the schedule would be, what the pricing would be.”

However the company isn’t completely giving up on coming to Nova Scotia.

“We felt at this point that we needed to cancel the tour and hopefully try it again next year when everything is set up,” Flint says.

Other tour bus companies are also keeping a watchful eye on the situation, saying they are concerned.

In the media release it issued late Thursday morning, Bay Ferries says it isn’t in a position to say much publically about the ongoing search for a boat.

 “Because we are competing for assets against other operators worldwide, we are limited in what we can say on the status of our search because of the risk that it would jeopardize our company’s ability to get the best ship in place for the Yarmouth-Maine service in 2016,” says Bay Ferries chief executive officer Mark MacDonald.

The release says Bay Ferries recognizes the concerns of the travel and tourism industries.

“Bay Ferries has been working hard since the fall to secure the right ship to serve Yarmouth and Maine. We have been keeping the Nova Scotia government up to date on our considerable efforts in many different ferry markets around the world,” MacDonald says in the release.

He adds the company has been “attempting to identify a vessel that works best for customers, is capable of meeting Canadian and US regulatory requirements, and makes financial sense for the province of Nova Scotia.”

The Tri-County Vanguard attempted to contact MacDonald for more comment, but was told he is out of the country on business. 

Last month Bay Ferries’ vice-president of operations Don Cormier had told the Vanguard  the ship market “is challenging.”

The provincial government – opting not to continue with Nova Star Cruises – announced in late-October  Bay Ferries was the preferred candidate to operate ferry service between Nova Scotia and Maine. At that time it said the company had 45 days to find a vessel.