The Nova Star
The province and STM Quest Inc. have signed an agreement to support a new cruise ferry in Yarmouth, to begin in May 2014.
"Restoring this ferry service is a priority and we got to work on this file immediately," said Michel Samson, Minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism.
"Having a signed agreement between the province and company is an important milestone a lot of people have been waiting for. There is a lot of work still to do, and I encourage everyone to push forward to get a boat in the water next spring."
The province has received a signed copy of the agreement and amendments from STM Quest Inc. The company has committed to a May start.
"We would like to thank the government of Nova Scotia, the Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism, the state of Maine, the Nova Scotia International Ferry Partnership, and, in particular, the people of Nova Scotia, for their confidence and support in ensuring the return of this vital service," said Steve Durrell, chief operating officer, Quest Navigation. "We look forward to providing a world-class cruise ferry service for generations to come."
"I couldn't be happier," said Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood. "The people and business operators from our town, and around the region, are ramping up now, poised to make the most of the new ferry service once it arrives.
"Our All Hands on Deck initiative is well underway and it is exciting to see progress being made. The town is working diligently with all partners involved to ensure we are ready to welcome the Nova Star. It's certainly a red-letter day for all of us!"
The province and company agreed to make amendments to the letter of offer announced in early September. The parties have:
-- clarified language and added more detail including how the province will provide funding during the start-up phase, and the terms of senior management salary deferral during the start-up and if there are operating losses
-- revised deadlines for conditions the company must meet
-- clarified how and when ST Marine will provide its $3 million contribution
-- added auditing rights for the province for more accountability
The province's financial commitment remains the same. It will provide $21 million to the company over seven years, including $10.5 million toward start-up costs, with $1.5 million each year for marketing.
There are a number of terms and conditions for STM Quest Inc. to receive the assistance and earn forgiveness for the loan.
"The Yarmouth ferry service is a vital link between our province and the United States, and we fought hard to have it reinstated," said Natural Resources Minister Zach Churchill. "My congratulations and thanks to everyone who has helped so far. Now, we can focus on attracting and welcoming more visitors to our shores, ensuring this service remains sustainable for generations to come."
For a ferry to start operating in 2014, STM Quest, other levels of government and partners must work on: having border services in place in both ports, upgrading the Yarmouth ferry terminal, signing berthing agreements in the two ports, and getting all licences and permits needed to operate a ferry service.
"We're very pleased there's a signed agreement and things are moving forward," said Keith Condon, co-chair of the Nova Scotia International Ferry Partnership.
"On behalf of the partnership, I want to thank the government for acting quickly. We will be watching eagerly as STM Quest develops and starts marketing the new service, and as other efforts move toward a new Yarmouth ferry in May 2014."
Marketing the ferry and Nova Scotia to potential visitors from the mid-Atlantic and north eastern United States are key parts of the service. The Nova Scotia Tourism Agency has been meeting with STM Quest Inc. to co-ordinate the province's tourism marketing plans with the company's detailed plan.
"The people of southwest Nova Scotia have my commitment that the province will continue to work tirelessly alongside them and the other partners to make this new venture a success," said Samson. "I will travel to Yarmouth in the coming weeks to deliver that message myself."