HALIFAX — The operator of the high-speed ferry service that links Yarmouth, N.S., with Portland, Maine says it carried more than 41,000 passengers this year despite engine trouble that reduced the number of crossings during its second season in operation.
Bay Ferries says it carried 41,623 passengers in 2017, an increase over it's initial season in 2016, when the "Cat" carried 35,551 passengers
However, the vessel sailed on only 84 round trips this year when 112 trips were scheduled.
The company says the lower number was the result of the failure of the vessel's starboard outer main engine, which occurred on June 28.
"Our sales trajectory to the end of June gave us cause for optimism that 2017 passenger numbers would be much higher," Bay Ferries CEO Mark MacDonald said in a statement. "In the circumstances, we are pleased with the 2017 season."
The final passenger numbers fall short of the more than 50,000 passengers carried by the ferry's previous operator, Nova Star Cruises. As well, the latest tally is well below ridership figures of 90,000 to 100,000 that Bay Ferries registered in 2007-2008 when it previously operated the service.
The province's relationship with Nova Star was terminated after it failed to meet passenger targets and burned through $39.5 million in provincial subsidies during its two years at the helm.
Bay Ferries, which signed a 10-year deal with the province, received a subsidy of $32.7 million in its first two years, which included $13.1 million towards the operation's startup.
Earlier this week, Bay Ferries announced it was exercising its option to again lease the Cat from the U.S. Navy for 2018.
On Wednesday, Transportation Minister Lloyd Hines said the provincial subsidy for the most recent season was $9.4 million, and although the province hadn't yet signed off on another year with Bay Ferries he said it likely would.
He also said there had been no indication the company is looking for more money.
Bay Ferries said the Cat would spend the winter in Charleston, S.C., where the engine will be repaired. The company said the work is expected to be completed at the expense of engine manufacturer MTU by March 31.
Meanwhile, it said discussions were continuing with the City of Portland around the ongoing lease of the Portland Ocean Gateway Terminal.