YARMOUTH, N.S. – The president and CEO of Bay Ferries says that year-to-date sales for The Cat’s overall 2018 season have already exceeded last year’s 2017 season total.
“We’re cautiously optimistic on the season,” Mark MacDonald said on Aug. 16. “YTD (year-to-date) sales exceed 42,000 passengers (advance sales and passengers who have already travelled). We carried 41,500 all of last year so we’re hoping for good growth if the trend continues.”
The service runs to Oct. 8.
MacDonald has said the company is working diligently to rebuild the ferry service and to make the service more efficient by cutting down on operating costs. Bay Ferries is in year three of a 10-year contract with the province to provide ferry service.
Bay Ferries met with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) this week as part of its ongoing process to explore the possibility of travelling to and from Nova Scotia from the port of Bar Harbor rather than Portland. Knowing what the expectations of USCBP would be for the Bar Harbor terminal, and most importantly what the cost would be, is an integral part of determining whether the move is feasible.
“We did have a meeting,” MacDonald said. “But it would not be appropriate for us to publicly comment on it.”
Bay Ferries is exploring the possibility of switching ports as early as next year, saying the shorter sailing distance will cut down on operating and fuel costs and bring about other efficiencies. The port of Bar Harbor also opens up access to the robust tourism market there.
Bay Ferries also has concerns over what impact future development on Portland’s waterfront may have on the footprint of its operations there.
In consultation with Bay Ferries, Bar Harbor town council is carrying out its own exploration of a possible return of international ferry service, aiming for an Oct. 2 timeframe to come up with a decision or determine if more time is needed for a decision.
The City of Portland, meanwhile, released its July monthly passenger report for the Cat on Aug. 15. The report indicated that 13,315 passengers travelled on The Cat, which breaks down to 6,846 passengers travelling from Maine to Nova Scotia and 6,469 passengers travelling from Nova Scotia to Maine.
The June and July 2018 figures released by Portland add up to 20,016 passengers in the first seven weeks of The Cat’s season. During the month of July, 4,730 vehicles were carried on The Cat – a combination of passenger vehicles, motorcycles, campers and tour buses.
The 13,315 July 2018 figure compares to 10,800 from July 2016 when The Cat had its first year of service between Nova Scotia and Maine.
Bay Ferries had previously sailed between Maine and Nova Scotia from 1997 to 2009. It ended the service after the 2009 season when it lost its provincial operating subsidy.
Despite engine troubles last year that resulted in a cancellation of 25 per cent of The Cat’s 2017 sailings, the year-end total was still an increase from The Cat’s first year back in service in 2016 when the ferry carried 35,500 passengers.