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Yarmouth Ferry Report

The Provinces Expert panel on the Yarmouth Ferry today released its report. The province has Commited 21 million over 7 years to restore the Yarmouth Ferry Service. The report recommends that a cruise ferry can be viable, as it would capitalize on the upswing in short cruises operating from Boston and New York. A ferry that is simply a transportation link would be unviable.

The Full report can be found at http://www.gov.ns.ca/econ/docs/Yarmouth-US%20Ferry_Panel_Report-FINAL.pdf

 From the Report: A re-established ferry service between Yarmouth and Maine could become commercially viable, but viability hinges on being able to build passenger traffic back at least to the 130-135,000 level. enough passengers could be attracted to a Yarmouth ferry to bring about un-subsidized viability in the medium term, but only under the following conditions.

 • The ferry’s business model needs to be built around the passenger’s on-board experience rather than simply offering another transportation route from the US northeast to Nova Scotia. A ‘cruise ferry’ between Yarmouth and Portland (of which the Scotia Prince was an old example) is the only suitable service model.
 • The business strategy must emphasize a sophisticated approach to marketing by the ferry operator, complemented by renewal of substantial in-market promotion of Nova Scotia by the government.
• There has to be greater development of the destination experience in Nova Scotia, and particularly in the southwestern area, to encourage more and longer stays. In other words, the marketing message needs to be validated by the visitor’s experience. We believe that In order to initiate a service and attract a suitably experienced operator, governments (federal and provincial) would have to provide roughly $30-$35 million of support:
 • to repair and refurbish the federally-owned Yarmouth terminal facilities;
 • to provide start-up funds, estimated to be roughly $5 million—e.g., to assist with baseline market research; support an initial advertising campaign; defray certain costs associated with vessel acquisition and financing; and
 • to share/cover the early years of operating losses that are likely to total in the $20 million range.

The report Also States that ” A Yarmouth ferry would not have a major impact on the existing Digby-Saint John service since the markets being served by each vessel are substantially separate.”

On Possible vessels, the Panel advises that “There are several vessels potentially available on the world market that could be physically accommodated in Yarmouth and rendered suitable for a cruise ferry to Portland.”

Finally on timing for re-establishment “it is very unlikely that an operation could be established for the 2013 season given the time needed to secure an operator and vessel, and to complete the immediately necessary repairs to the Yarmouth terminal. Extensive market research would be required before committing to re-establish a service, and a marketing campaign to promote the service should be launched a year before its initiation—i.e. in early 2013 for a spring 2014 start. We therefore believe that a 2014 launch would be more realistic.”

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Peter Ziobrowski

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