Former Navy Ship to Become Portland-Nova Scotia Ferry

U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command emblem (U.S. Navy photo)
U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command emblem (U.S. Navy photo)

PORTLAND, Maine — The previous operator of The Cat ferry plans to renew a daily ferry run between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, starting about June 15, using a surplus U.S. Navy vessel.

Bay Ferries Ltd. announced Thursday that it chartered the ship from the Navy for two years, with an option on leasing it for two more.

The company plans to start the ferry service about June 15, with daily six-hour round-trips between Portland and Yarmouth, until Sept. 30. The ship will leave mornings from Yarmouth and mid-afternoon from Maine, which the company said "will place a heavy demand on overnight accommodations" in southwest Nova Scotia.

The ship is the USNS Puerto Rico, which was previously called the Alakai when it was operated by Hawaii Superferry Inc. The U.S. Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration acquired two ships from Hawaii Superferry after the company defaulted on loans. It transferred the ships to the Navy in 2012.

The company said in a statement on its website that it in January gave a closer look at the ship but faced questions of whether such a transaction with the Navy and a private company could take place.

"Eventually, Military Sealift Command determined that this type of transaction could take place using a concept known as an Enhanced Use Lease whereby a military asset is leased to a private contractor on mutually beneficial terms," Bay Ferries stated.

The company credited Maine Sen. Angus King, Rep. Chellie Pingree and Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling with urging the Navy to consider the deal.

The province picked the company last fall to continue the service that was restarted in 2014 by Nova Star Cruises, a consortium of the Eliot-based Quest Navigation and the Singapore-based shipbuilder ST Marine Ltd.

Bay Ferries said it would take possession of the ship on April 1 and send it to Detyens Shipyard in South Carolina for work to prepare the ship for service. The ship can accommodate at least 700 passengers and more than 200 passenger vehicles, the company stated.

The company said it expects to start selling tickets in early April.

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