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March 1, 2021

Bar Harbor-Nova Scotia ferry company earns $1M a year while ship sits idle

Courtesy / Bay Ferries Ltd. The CAT ferry service between Bar Harbor and Nova Scotia has been idled for two years and has already canceled its 2021 season. Meanwhile, operator Bay Ferries Ltd. received annual fees of CA$1.17 million from the province.

The Canadian company contracted to operate the CAT ferry service between Bar Harbor and Nova Scotia is being paid nearly $1 million a year while the high-speed vessel remains a no-speed one.

The 350-foot-long ferry has been idled for the past two years, initially because of delays in building a new terminal in Bar Harbor and in 2020 because of the pandemic. Last month, owner Bay Ferries Ltd. also canceled the CAT’s 2021 sailing season due to public health concerns.

While Bar Harbor businesses and the community will have to wait at least an additional year for the return of the service to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, residents and politicians there are frustrated for other reasons. The province has heavily subsidized the CAT, and two years ago Canada’s Progress Conservative party sued to obtain records revealing how much.

On Feb. 16, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court ordered Bay Ferries to provide the information, and last week the company complied.

Bay Ferries receives a monthly management fee for the CAT of 98,000 Canadian dollars, or roughly U.S. $924,000 annually, according to a news release last week.

Those fees comprise the company’s profit, and are about 5% of the overall budget for operating the ferry service, the release said.

Bay Ferries’ current contract with Nova Scotia for the CAT service continues until 2025.

The company operated the CAT between Bar Harbor and Nova Scotia from 1997 to 2010, but subsequently moved the ferry's Maine berth to Portland. In 2018, the town of Bar Harbor purchased the terminal where the CAT had docked. Bay Ferries indicated it wanted to return the service from Portland to Bar Harbor, and agreed to lease the terminal and pay half of the $6 million in costs for improving it.

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