Gulf of Maine ferry reborn, hopes to attract truckers
After a five-year absence, a new company has begun ferry service between Portland, Maine, and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
The 528-foot long roll-on, roll-off passenger (ropax) ferry Nova Star was scheduled to dock in Yarmouth Friday morning after its inaugural 10-hour voyage overnight from Portland. The ferry will make one round trip per day, departing from Portland at 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and from Yarmouth at 10 a.m. Atlantic Standard Time.
Built in Singapore by the Singapore Technologies Marine shipyard and originally intended for a service in the English Channel, the ship was instead bareboat chartered to the newly set-up Nova Star Cruises Ltd.
A service operated by Bay Ferries across the Gulf of Maine between Yarmouth and Portland and between Yarmouth and Bar Harbor ended in 2009.
Use of the ferry by trucking companies will be a “supplemental part of the service, but an important part,” said Mark Amundsen, the chief executive officer of Nova Star. He said the target goal for the ferry is to carry 40 tractor trailers per voyage, though he said the ferry could carry as many as 70 tractor trailers. He expects trucking will provide about 20 percent of the revenue for the ferry. Nova Star has two decks that have a height clearance of nearly 15 feet.
“The voyage is 10 hours long, and it perfectly coincides with the U.S. motor carrier laws that have a 10-hour rest requirement for truckers,” he said. “We’ve gotten a fantastic response from the trucking industry, as this is a new option truckers have never had.”
Amundsen said if trucks are timed properly, companies can offer next-day service from Nova Scotia as far south as Philadelphia or Washington, D.C.
“When the trucker gets off the ferry in Portland, Maine, they have a new clock that they can start, so essentially they can keep in motion as far south as the mid-Atlantic states,” he said. “U.S. Customs and Border Protection looks at this as a land crossing, not as a shipping crossing — it is an extension of the highway system. Our goal is to get trucks quickly out and through, so they can take advantage of this service.”
He expects truckers moving cargo from Nova Scotia on the ferry could be carrying a variety of cargo from seafood to paper to tires.
Halifax is a consumer market and gets as many as 260 trucks per day from Montreal. The ferry service eliminates the need for long-haul truckers to go up and over Maine and bring cargo through Moncton, New Brunswick, down into Nova Scotia. He said trucking companies might be able to bring cargo to Portland and use regional drivers, noting that Canada, like the U.S., is facing a shortage of truck drivers.
Nova Star has the ability to carry up to 1,215 passengers and a combination of automobiles, recreational vehicles, buses and commercial trucks.
It has 162 private passenger cabins that each have the capacity to accommodate up to four people, and all are equipped with private bathrooms and a shower. There are also 254 individually assigned recliner seats, similar to those found in the business-class sections of airlines. Other amenities on the ship include three restaurants, a casino, retail store, a “kids zone,” and spa.