BAR HARBOR – There was virtually no discussion as Bar Harbor town council voted not to entertain a second proposal sent to it pitching an international ferry operation between the town and Nova Scotia.
Town council is already considering a proposal submitted to it by Bay Ferries to operate ferry service to and from Nova Scotia from this port.
Last month the Bar Harbor company Downeast Windjammer Cruise Lines also submitted a proposal to operate a service using a displacement monohull vessel. The company has operated a boating and sailing tour company for more than 30 years but has no experience operating an international ferry service. Captain Steve Pagels, however, said getting into international ferry service is something they’ve been giving thought to and researching for some time.
When the agenda item came up at Bar Harbor town council’s Aug. 7 meeting it was dealt with quickly.
“I’m going to move to thank Mr. Pagels for his proposal but find that the proposal received from Downeast Windjammer Cruise Lines simply lacks the detail needed to make it actionable by the town council, and therefore, not consider this proposal any further and move onto the next item on this evening’s agenda,” said town councillor Paul Paradis in making a motion. “I just don’t want to discuss it or go any further on the emails we’ve gotten.”
The motion was approved unanimously.
While there was no other discussion, concerns about the proposal were referenced in the Aug. 7 council agenda packet.
“There does not appear to have been enough ground work done to be operational next summer. So the debt costs would be on the taxpayer. There is no mention of discussions with the Nova Scotia government or US Customs and Border Protection,” read a summary of concerns and observations. “There doesn’t appear to have been any preview of the work needed to fix up the building or piers or ramps and relying on state and federal grants to fund the infrastructure would certainly delay the start. And what if the grant applications are not successful?”
This proposal was never meant to be a replacement of existing international ferry service that the province of Nova Scotia contracts Bay Ferries to provide over a 10-year period.
Rather, Pagels had said the company had been toying with the thought of operating international ferry service and with the recent purchase of the terminal facility by the town, the opportunity had now arisen to put forth a proposal. Pagels also felt it was wrong of the town to only be considering the Bay Ferries proposal and not put out a request for proposals from other potential operators if it is going to consider ferry service for the port.
Windjammer’s proposal sought a 10-year lease of the ferry terminal facility and outlined making three one-way trips a week from Bar Harbor to Nova Scotia and three one-way trips a week going the other way. Initially they would have looked to operate a late-spring to early-fall schedule, with expansion down the road into the shoulder seasons with a reduced schedule. After some time they may have even looked at operating two vessels back and forth making one-way trips. The company does not own a ferry that could be used on an international ferry route.
Bay Ferries has approached the town with the idea of switching ports from Portland to Bar Harbor. The company says a shorter sailing distance would help it save fuel costs; the port of Bar Harbor opens up a market to the millions of tourists who visit Acadia National Park each year and there is concern by Bay Ferries that continued development on the Portland waterfront may squeeze out its operations from a space perspective.