BAR HARBOR — After a season of delays in getting the ferry terminal renovated and approved by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Bay Ferries is now expecting a spring 2020 start to international ferry service between Bar Harbor and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
Annette Higgins of Atlantic Fleet Services, the local company partnering with the Canadian ferry service on the U.S. side of the project, confirmed on Wednesday, “We are looking to begin service for the 2020 season.”
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported last month that the Cat had departed Yarmouth, N.S. for Charleston, South Carolina for the winter.
Captain Skip Strong of the Penobscot Bay & River Pilots Association has been keeping up with the progress, and heard from Bay Ferries representatives earlier this month that service should begin around May 15. “That’s still subject to the terminal getting completed and approved,” he added.
When ferry service does begin, state licensed harbor pilots will board the ferry and work with crew to successfully navigate the harbor on their daily runs.
This season, Strong said, the pilots’ group “changed our whole operation to accommodate the Cat. We had to do a lot of scrambling,” chartering a boat for the increased workload that they never saw this season.
“We went based on what everyone was expecting and hoping,” he said. “We’re all set for next year.”
Originally set to start international ferry service between Yarmouth and Bar Harbor by June 21 of this year, Bay Ferries announced on June 7 that the start date would be delayed because the Bar Harbor terminal was not ready.
“The earliest date on which any service could commence is mid-summer,” a press release from the company said at the time. Bay Ferries then announced in July that they had stopped taking reservations for the 2019 season.
In June of 2018, Bar Harbor voters authorized the purchase of the ferry terminal from the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) for $3.5 million. The town closed on the purchase of the property Jan. 31.
Prior to that, in October, the Town Council approved the five-year lease agreement allowing Bay Ferries to operate from a portion of the ferry terminal.
The Maine Department of Transportation did install a new sign last month on Route 3 in anticipation of ferry service beginning, said spokesperson Paul Merrill.
The sign says “Maine – Welcome Home.”
Merrill said it is a smaller version of highway signs on the Maine border.
According to a press release issued by Governor Janet Mills’ office in February, the new “Welcome Home” sign replaces the “Open for Business” sign installed by former Governor Paul LePage.
“This sign is a simple, inclusive, and powerful message which our state will send to every family, business owner, and young person coming into our state — you are welcome here,” said Governor Mills.
According to the press release, the new signs are made of recycled aluminum from signs previously taken down. According to the Maine Turnpike Authority which installed the highway border signs, installation costs were minimal and primarily involved traffic control.
Bay Ferries representatives did not respond to requests for comment by press time.