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Nova Scotia ferry set for Thursday arrival in Portland

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Nova Scotia ferry set for Thursday arrival in Portland

PORTLAND — Terminal leases are approved, tickets are on sale, and this week the new ship that will ferry passengers to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, is expected to dock for the first time in Portland.

Nova Star Cruises spokesman Dennis Bailey on Monday said the 528-foot Nova Star is scheduled to berth in Portland at noon Thursday, after a two-day stop in Nova Scotia.

Daily, 10-hour trips to Nova Scotia are scheduled to begin May 15 and run through Oct. 31.

Bailey said the Nova Star is expected to berth at the Ocean Gateway Terminal off Commercial Street for three weeks before making a "port-of-call tour" to Boston and Portsmouth, N.H. The ship will be officially christened in Boston.

On April 7, city councilors unanimously approved a seven-year lease with Nova Star Cruises that city Economic Development Director Greg Mitchell said could generate $100,000 in revenue in its first year, and more beyond if ridership increases.

The lease requires $19,000 annual rent for a building not connected to the terminal, which will be used to process departing passengers. In its first year, the Nova Star will be assessed at $350 daily berthing fee, which will generate about $63,000 in revenue. The berthing fee will increase to $528 per day next year.

Other revenues will largely be gained from a $2.50 fee for each departing and arriving passenger, and $3 assessed for each passenger car or truck the ferry carries. Buses and commercial trucks will be assessed $20 fees. Fees will increase to $5 in the second year for passenger vehicles, and $25 for commercial vehicles.

The ferry can hold up to 1,250 passengers and 300 vehicles. Bailey promised the trips will provide "a true cruise experience," with three restaurants, a spa, a conference center and theater, casino, and a play area for children.

The trips will be the first from Portland to Nova Scotia since the Cat ferry service ended in 2009. Nova Star Cruises has been subsidized with about $20 million from the Nova Scotia provincial government.

Before the Cat, the city and Nova Scotia were linked by for about 35 years by the Prince of Fundy, Bolero, Caribe, Marine Evangeline and, more recently, the Scotia Prince.

Nova Star Cruises is headed by Maine Maritime Academy graduate Mark Amundsen. Eric Junker, a Southern Maine Vocational Technical College (now Southern Maine Community College) graduate, was appointed terminal director of operations in Portland.

The ship was built for use on the English Channel, but the service was never established. It left Singapore in mid-March, arriving by way of the Suez Canal, Mediterranean, with a stop in Lisbon.

The Nova Star will share terminal space, when necessary, with cruise ships. The ships will use opposite sides of the terminal.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.