PORTLAND, Maine — A government audit in Canada found Nova Star Cruises spent about $30.2 million (Canadian) in its first sailing season between Maine and Nova Scotia in 2014, but the company’s revenues were not revealed.
The spending figures include about $21 million in subsidies from the Nova Scotia government, meaning the province paid for about 70 percent of the service’s costs from startup through Sept. 30, 2014.
After a report published online Friday, the province clarified and confirmed the ferry service’s first year spending. The audit did not include $5 million the province gave Nova Star Cruises to close out the season and another $2.5 million the province gave the service to cover costs for the ship’s travel to and berthing in South Carolina.
Maine has not provided any money to the service, but tourism officials in Nova Scotia met last year with Gov. Paul LePage, whose office said in October it was working on a bill that would allow the state to extend the service a $5 million line of credit.
The Halifax-based auditing firm KPMG said the purpose of the audit was to confirm that the ferry service used the subsidies for the intended purposes of starting up and operating the daily route between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
Of the $25.4 million across 1,037 transactions that auditors reviewed, there were 35 transactions worth a total of $79,265 for which the company was not able to provide supporting documentation, the report stated.
Nova Scotia Economic Development Minister Michel Samson said during a news conference Thursday about the audit that the results are not a cause for concern, according to the Yarmouth County Vanguard.
The initial subsidy was intended to last seven years and its full expenditure in Year One leaves the parties without a contract.
The company announced Thursday that the vessel had left a dock in Shelburne, Nova Scotia, to travel to less expensive lodgings in Charleston, South Carolina, for the rest of the winter. The ferry’s operators are still pursuing a winter route that could generate off-season revenue for the company.
Nova Scotia officials have said that if the seasonal service between Portland and Nova Scotia continues it would be with Nova Star Cruises and not any other operator.
The province said in a news release Sunday that it is still in negotiations with the company about an agreement for the 2015 sailing season that it said will reduce costs.
In releasing details of the audit, the province attempted to redact the exact line-item costs, but the PDF files it uploaded to its website contained text confirming the company spent $10.5 million in startup costs and $30.2 million on operating costs, with a breakdown of that spending.
A review by the Bangor Daily News found the company paid about $6.3 million related to the 528-foot ship, making up the bulk of its startup costs. It spent another 25.6 percent of startup costs on overhead.
Its operating costs were mostly for engine and deck costs, with about 13 percent of operating costs spent on a sales and reservation system.
The province on Sunday released unredacted copies of the audit.
An initial report Friday in the Bangor Daily News overstated the total spent by the ferry in its first season, by adding together the startup and operating costs to arrive at a total.
The news release did not identify the Bangor Daily News but said that “because of a technical error, one media outlet was able to find and report the financial details from electronic versions.”
“Nova Star has agreed the financial details can be released to ensure they are properly understood,” the news release stated.
It said that the audit of operational costs included the $10.5 million in startup costs, for a total of about $30.2 million in expenditures through Sept. 30, 2014.