Bay Ferries receiving $1.17M annually to operate Yarmouth to Maine ferry service

HALIFAX —
Bay Ferries announced Monday they’ve been receiving over $1 million annually in management fees for operating the ferry service between Yarmouth and Maine, even during the years it hasn’t run.

Under the Ferry Operations Agreement between Nova Scotia and the company, dated April 1, 2018, it says the management fee for operating the service is $97,500 per month, totalling $1.17 million annually.

The agreement was kept secret until recently, when the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservatives won a two-year court battle over the undisclosed funds.

Iain Rankin, Nova Scotia’s newly sworn in premier, says the ferry service is important for the province.

“I support infrastructure and anything that I think relates to ensuring the viability to all regions in our province,” said Rankin.

Dalhousie University Professor Lorn Sheehan says the information released by Bay Ferries on Monday could be beneficial when the ferry contract comes due for renegotiations.

“What it means is that Nova Scotians will know a little bit more about how this agreement is structured and what the deal is between the province and Bay Ferries,” said Sheehan.

The agreement released Monday also includes incentives that could see the company earn up to, but no more than, two times the management fee, or $2.34 million.

The contract with Bay Ferries is in place until the 2025 season.

In the agreement, it states that Bay Ferries takes on all aspects of operating the service, including crewing and maintenance, and working with U.S. customs and border patrol to allow the high-speed Cat Ferry to dock in Maine.

Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood says the ferry is vital for the town. She doesn’t believe information from the operational agreement will impact support for the ferry because of the benefits it brings when operating.

“Everything from economics, you know, our fixed roof accommodations are full, there’s lineups at the restaurants, people are shopping,” explained Mood.

For the second straight year in a row, the province has cancelled the ferry service’s upcoming season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, the management fee is still being paid to the operators.