PORTLAND, Maine — The City Council voted Monday to rent terminal space to the company that runs the ferry between Portland and Nova Scotia, alleviating months of uncertainty over whether The Cat ferry would be back this year.
The councilors unanimously approved renewal of Bay Ferries Ltd.’s lease of the Ocean Gateway Terminal for 2018, further ensuring the ferry’s return to Maine later this spring.
The ferry’s upcoming season appeared to have been sunk in November, when the U.S. border protection agency announced it would end customs service at the ferry terminal because the facility is not up to federal standards.
But after negotiations with the city and Bay Ferries, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agreed to run customs screenings this year if roughly $1.5 million worth of upgrades are made to the terminal. In March, the Canadian ferry company and Nova Scotia government agreed to foot the bill.
The company’s new lease generally continues on the terms used in past years, with it paying the city rent and fees for disembarking passengers and vehicles. The city anticipates the deal will bring in $190,000 this year, a $10,000 drop from 2017 when The Cat’s season began eight days earlier.
The City Council also approved a possible renewal of the lease for 2019, although city officials have said they eventually hope to move the customs screening process to Nova Scotia.
The Cat is scheduled to return to Portland on June 8. The upgrades to be made to the Ocean Gateway Terminal before then include the installation of closed-circuit cameras, radiation detectors, and equipment to read the license plates of cars and trucks disembarking from the ferry.
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