A seasonal ferry service featuring the The Cat, a high-speed catamaran, set to start running between Maine and Nova Scotia on Friday will not run in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Bay Ferries Ltd.
Mark MacDonald, the company’s chairman and chief executive officer, expressed regret for the decision.
“International non-essential travel worldwide has essentially come to a standstill. It is not clear when U.S. operations would be permitted to occur, what opportunity would exist for proper marketing of the service, and what short term customer demand would be,” MacDonald said in a statement released on Friday. “In the circumstances, we are focused on reduction of cost.”
The terminal the ferry would use in Bar Harbor is a key part of the town’s plans to reduce its downtown traffic by allowing more recreation boats and parking to relocate there from the harbor. Under the town plan, the terminal would become a multiuse marina, with Bay Ferries using approximately half the 7-acre property at 121 Eden St. off Route 3.
Residents voted in June 2018 to buy it for $3.5 million. The town completed the purchase in January 2019 and signed a five-year lease with Atlantic Fleet Services, which will run Bay Ferries’ shoreside operations in Maine, on roughly half of the property. The lease guarantees minimum payments totaling $1 million for the five-year term of the lease, with higher payments possible depending on the volume of passengers and vehicles the ferry carries.
A Canadian firm whose operations are subsidized by the provincial government of Nova Scotia, Bay Ferries was slated to return to Bar Harbor this year nearly 11 years after it left town. It ran The Cat between Portland and Nova Scotia from 2016 through 2018. Bay Ferries had an option for another year on a lease it held on the Ocean Gateway terminal in Portland but decided not to exercise that option.
The company’s lease in Portland expired at the end of December 2018.