Three companies competing to restart Nova Scotia-New England ferry service

The high-speed Cat ferry leaves Portland Harbor in June 2009, bound for Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
Robert F. Bukaty | AP
The high-speed Cat ferry leaves Portland Harbor in June 2009, bound for Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
Posted July 05, 2013, at 4:04 p.m.
Last modified July 05, 2013, at 5:20 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — Three companies have submitted proposals to restart ferry service between Nova Scotia and New England, with Portland being one of the main competitors for the route.

The three companies competing for the service are Balearia Caribbean Ltd., Dover, England-based P&O Ferries, and a partnership among Eliot, Maine-based Quest Navigation, ST Marine Ltd. and International Shipping Partners.

The deadline for submitting proposals to the Nova Scotia government was July 4.

“There was significant interest from experienced ferry operators around the world and we are pleased to see three of these companies develop that interest into business plans,” Graham Steele, Nova Scotia’s minister of economic, rural development and tourism, said in a statement. “The next step is for those plans to be carefully evaluated to see if they meet the criteria to run a viable, sustainable ferry service between Yarmouth and the United States.”

Representatives from the Nova Scotia International Ferry Partnership and the provincial government will evaluate the proposals “as quickly as possible,” judging them on a set of criteria, including financial stability, a management structure with expertise and a history of managing successful ferry services, and tourism and marketing experience, according to a news release from the province.

Balearia Caribbean Ltd. is a subsidiary of the Spanish company Balearia, which operates ferry and shipping routes between Spanish ports and the Balearic Islands and Africa, as well as ferry service between Florida and the Bahamas.

P&O Ferries, based in Dover, England, operates ferry routes among the British isles, as well as three ferry routes to France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

While Quest Navigation is based in Maine, ST Marine is a shipbuilder based in Singapore and International Shipping Partners is an experienced ferry operator based in Miami. They call their partnership Nova Star Cruises and already have a ferry built by ST Marine that would be christened Nova Star and used on the route.

“We believe this alliance provides the financial strength and operational expertise necessary to meet the challenges associated with introducing a new and successful cruise ferry service,” the companies said in a statement posted on novastarcruises.com.

In September 2012, Nova Scotia committed $21 million over seven years to help subsidize ferry service across the Gulf of Maine. The service was lost at the end of 2009 when Bay Ferries Ltd. ceased operating The Cat, a high-speed ferry, because of tough economic conditions.

The Cat, and the Scotia Prince before it, operated ferry service between Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and Portland, but that route is not set in stone.

Tina Thibeau, a spokeswoman for the province, would not offer any details about the proposals. Attempts to reach P&O Ferries and Balearia Caribbean Ltd. were not successful on Friday.

Dennis Bailey, a spokesman for Quest Navigation, said the company’s proposal is for the route to be between Yarmouth and Portland. He declined to offer additional details.

This is the second request for proposals Nova Scotia has made. The first request was last fall and only garnered two submissions — one from Quest and the other from Baltimore-based engineering firm Maritime Applied Physics Corp., which has an office in Brunswick. In March, the province said neither proposal met the province’s minimum criteria and it launched a new procurement process.

Quest’s first proposal involved a partnership with Maritime Holdings Group, a Florida-based ferry operator that operates ferries in the Caribbean. According to the statement on the Nova Star website, it appears Maritime Holdings Group no longer is involved with the proposal.

Richard Frost, a spokesman for Maritime Applied Physics Corp., told the Bangor Daily News in March that the company would resubmit a proposal. However, the company did not resubmit a proposal this time around, Frost said on Friday.

“After conversations with the province we decided not to pursue it because they clearly were not, at least right now, interested in our solution, which was a high-speed hydrofoil,” Frost said. “They’re still looking for the Scotia Prince model. If they don’t find it, maybe they’ll come back to us. But for now we’re not proposing what they want, so they’re not going to respond favorably anyway.”

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