Yarmouth-to-Maine ferry service could move to new port

The ferry route between Yarmouth, N.S. and New England could be changing in the next year.

Government and supporters say a move would make the service more sustainable.

The ferry service hasn't been without its growing pains.

Last year, an engine failure meant the Cat could only make 84 round-trips between Yarmouth and Portland, instead of 112 as planned.

That’s part of the reason Bay Ferries is now looking at switching its U.S. destination from Portland to Bar Harbor.

“Our company today submitted to town council of Bar Harbor, Maine a proposal for a potential leasing of space and operation of a ferry service,” said Bay Ferries Limited president Mark MacDonald.

It would mean returning to the company's old property there, which operated between 1997 and 2009.

For ferry passengers it would mean a shorter ride -- by about two hours.

For Bay Ferries it would also mean spending less money on fuel since Bar Harbor is closer to Yarmouth than Portland by almost 150 kilometres.

Another reason has to do with Portland's plans to develop its waterfront.

“Some of the plans which we have seen which are tentative and early stage plans show portions of the ferry terminal property being devoted to other uses,” MacDonald said.

Macdonald says Bar Harbor also has a tourism advantage as one of the most popular tourism destinations in the U.S. with 3.5 million visitors a year. Visitors who could potentially come to Nova Scotia.

As long as the ferry lands in her town, the mayor of Yarmouth is happy.

“Whether it’s in Portland or in Bar Harbor, they will certainly find their way to us, so that's a good thing,” said Pam Mood.

The Bar Harbor terminal would need millions in renovations and that would take money, with Nova Scotians being the ones that will foot the bill.

It’s a service that has already cost Nova Scotia taxpayers millions of dollars, but Nova Scotia's minister of transportation says he's open to the idea.

“There will be cost, we're pretty confident of that,” said Lloyd Hines. “What it will be and what the sharing ratio might be, we're early days on that.”

Bay Ferries has asked Bar Harbor town council to decide by Oct. 1. If the plan goes ahead from there, it would hope to make the move by next year's ferry season.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Heidi Petracek.