Published Date Written by Staff Report
The province of Nova Scotia has chosen STM Quest Inc. to set up and run a new ferry service between Yarmouth, Nova Scotia and Portland, Maine Gov. Paul LePage announced Tuesday.
STM Quest Inc. is a joint venture between Quest Navigation of Maine and ST Marine of Singapore, according to a press release from the governor's office.
The ferry service is proposed to begin in the spring of 2014, using a new 161-meter ship that has capacity for 1,250 passengers and 300 vehicles.
In a letter to the Premier of the Province of Nova Scotia, Hon. Darrell Dexter, LePage expressed his enthusiasm for the return of the ferry service from Nova Scotia to Maine and provided formal support to STM Quest. LePage offered assistance to STM Quest, including an offer to work with the Quest Navigation marketing team and allocation of a portion of Maine marketing to promote the ferry service; offering to help Quest Navigation secure an operating line of credit for the amount of $5 million; and vowing to include Quest Navigation's capital needs into Portland waterfront planning to ensure consistency with the freight and business focus of the International Marine Terminal plans.
"Since 2009, Nova Scotia and Maine have missed a critical link between our citizens and economies," LePage said in the press release. "On behalf of the people of Maine, we would welcome restoration of this vital service and economic driver."
"On behalf of our team, we are honored to have been selected as the successful proponent for the Yarmouth Ferry Initiative," said Mark Amundsen, president and CEO of Quest Navigation of Maine, in a separate press release concerning the announcement by the province of Nova Scotia. "We are pleased to be invited to negotiate the terms for a mutually beneficial agreement with the province of Nova Scotia. We look forward to launching the Nova Star Cruises ferry service beginning in 2014, and we are committed to providing a world-class cruise ferry service for generations to come."
STM Quest is one of three companies that submitted plans to operate the ferry service and the only Maine-based company to bid and commit in its plans a port of call in Portland, LePage said.
This is the second economic development initiative the LePage Administration has assisted with to help bring business to the Portland waterfront, the governor's office reported. The press release also cited LePage's announcement earlier this year that Eimskip (The Icelandic Steamship Company) signed a contract with Maine Port Authority to begin operations out of the International Marine Terminal in Portland.
The press release also mentioned nearly $20 million in a transportation bond that is before lawmakers this week. A portion of the proposed bond would pay for improvements to multimodal facilities that support projects, such as major development on the Portland waterfront, LePage said.
"Our roads and ports continue to be a focus of economic opportunity that helps create jobs," LePage said. "The restoration of the ferry service will boost Portland's economy and Eimskip's service will open new markets for businesses to generate economic growth throughout Maine."
The fate of the transportation bond remains unclear. This week, the Maine Legislature's Appropriations Committee met, and Democratic leadership pointed to testimony from economic, policy and business experts urging broad bond proposals.
We heard economic and policy experts tell us that for our state to recover and become competitive, we need a balanced and comprehensive approach," said Senator Dawn Hill of York, the Senate Chair of the Appropriations Committee. "It was disappointing that no one from the Department of Transportation appeared before our committee to answer critical questions, especially as the Governor and Commissioner Bernhardt are sounding the alarm in the media about the new and immediate need for a transportation bond."
LePage has prevented the investment of $296 million in state and federal dollars into Maine's economy for more than 796 days, Democrats complained. LePage has accused Democrats of dragging their feet on various initiatives, including the transportation bond.