Portland prepares for end of Nova Scotia ferry service – Press Herald
Portland is preparing for the departure of the high-speed ferry to Nova Scotia.
Bay Ferries Ltd., the company that has operated the service for the past five years, is expected to unveil a proposal next week to restore a town-owned ferry terminal in Bar Harbor and restart service to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. If that happens, the company plans to end its service from Portland.
The loss of ferry, called The Cat, means people from the Portland area and south will have to drive three more hours to board the ferry in Bar Harbor. But Portland officials say the ferry’s departure will open up opportunities for waterfront development.
“We are in a fortunate position, we have a very active, busy port,” said Portland Economic Development Director Greg Mitchell on Wednesday.
“We have had conceptual discussions that recognize if the real estate was not needed for the ferry service, it could be used for something else.”
That something else could be a new pier between the Maine State Pier and Ocean Gateway, essentially an extension of India Street, Mitchell said. Such a development would run straight through a parking area currently used to line up vehicles to board the ferry.
“If we were to do that, we would also look at possible reconfiguration to support access and use for a new pier,” Mitchell.
At the Bar Harbor Town Council meeting next Tuesday, Bay Ferries is expected to present a formal proposal to renovate an unused ferry terminal and restart service.
Bar Harbor voters last month overwhelmingly approved a $3.5 million purchase of the ferry terminal from the state of Maine.
In a business plan for the terminal put together by Bermello Ajamil, Bay Ferries said it was prepared to invest $3 million to ready the terminal for ferry use. The business plan also included using the terminal for a marina and boat ramp and cruise ship tendering area.
Assuming the town accepts the Bay Ferries plan, “it is estimated that BFL would be able to make the necessary marine and facility improvements in time to initiate operations by the beginning of the 2019 season,” the report said.
In the business plan, Bay Ferries said it could reach up to 80,000 passengers a year by 2021.
Bay Ferries CEO Mark MacDonald, in an email, confirmed the CAT would probably relocate from Portland if the Bar Harbor plan is successful.
“If service was to resume from Bar Harbor, discontinuance of service to Portland would be likely,” he said.
This story will be updated.