Bay Ferries ended its 2017 sailing season having carried 41,462 passengers – an increase from 2016 when it carried 35,551 passengers.
The company had been anticipating higher numbers but the season was impacted by a failure on June 28 of The Cat’s starboard outer main engine, which necessitated significant modifications to the sailing schedule, both in terms of reduced crossings and some cancelled crossings. The engine could not be fixed until the season ended.
A secondary engine issue in August, which was repaired, also resulted in a few cancelled crossings.
Overall, the vessel sailed 84 round trips rather than the 112 round trips that had been scheduled at the start of the season.
"Our sales trajectory to end of June gave us cause for optimism that 2017 passenger numbers would be much higher,” said Mark MacDonald, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Bay Ferries. “Circumstances prevented this, but we are very pleased with the steady growth and very proud of the efforts of our people in both Nova Scotia and Maine, who worked tirelessly through this season.
“We also express sincere appreciation to our customers, a number of whom had to alter their travel plans as a result of our schedule changes, and to our many partners in the tourism industry."
The CAT is now in Charleston, South Carolina, where she will remain for the winter. Replacement of the damaged engine components and all associated work commenced this week and will be completed by March 31. This work is being undertaken by the engine manufacturer, MTU, at their expense.
The vessel will also undergo normal refit/maintenance activities during the winter.
The Nova Scotia government committed $9.4 million towards the service this season. Asked if the service will require additional funding given the issues this year, MacDonald said, “Our fiscal year is April 1 to March 31 so we are only half way through. When we feel we are in a position to make a reliable projection, we will do so. Our prime motivation is meeting financial targets, in addition to maximizing visitation.”
Last year the company received a $10.2-million subsidy and did meet its financial targets.
Meanwhile, a media release issued by Bay Ferries says preparations are underway for the 2018 season.
“Bay Ferries is in discussions with the City of Portland concerning ongoing leasing and other arrangements for the Portland Ocean Gateway Terminal. At the same time, Bay Ferries continues to examine optimal long-term models for the ferry service such as Bar Harbor, Maine,” the release reads.
Bay Ferries operated ferry service to Bar Harbor between 1997 and 2009.
Asked if the company is looking at switching ports, MacDonald said there is no specific plan under consideration.
“We always ask ourselves whether there may be any better way, in all aspects of the operation, to deliver the required service, which might be lower cost to taxpayers. That includes considering other ports, most notably Bar Harbor,” he said, noting there are various issues in Portland to deal with, as there are in all ports. He said Bay Ferries continues to have a strong and positive working relationship with the City of Portland, but they always have to be conscious of possible alternatives.
“The Town of Bar Harbor is currently examining possible purchase of the Bar Harbor ferry terminal property from the State of Maine and is looking at potential future uses of the property,” MacDonald said. “We believe the town should keep open the possibility of future ferry service and that our company should properly consider that possibility.”