Nova Star ferry gets $1.5M in advance of hearing

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PORTLAND — Nova Star Cruises got another $1.5 million (Canadian) from the province of Nova Scotia last week, as the company’s leader is scheduled to testify Thursday before lawmakers there.

The province disclosed the latest disbursement on a web page where it posts transactions with the ferry company, tallying this season its take of a possible $13 million in subsidy funds. Nova Star Cruises has so far received $9.6 million of that subsidy.

The Vanguard reported the disbursement represented just a portion of $2.5 million the company had requested and was initially denied, according to Nova Scotia Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan.

MacLellan on Aug. 20 said that Nova Star Cruises had not provided updated 2015 financial information until that week. The province reviewed that information and decided the $1.5 million was required to resolve “pressing payables,” the Vanguard reported.

The latest funding comes after provincial officials reiterated their commitment to Nova Star Cruises to finish out the 2015 season, but delayed a decision on who might operate the line in 2016.

The province is expected to receive more information about the service’s operation this week, including passenger totals for August. Mark Amundsen, CEO of Nova Star Cruises, is also scheduled to appear before the Nova Scotia Legislature’s Economic Development Committee on Thursday.

The service reported almost 21,900 passengers through the end of July, compared with about 19,800 for the same months one year ago.

The service set out a goal of having 80,000 passengers travel this season, which would require more than another 58,000 passengers through Oct. 14.

The company is expected to release its ridership for August later this week, showing how many passengers it would need to average per trip through September and the beginning of October to meet that goal.

The ship carried about 59,000 passengers last year.

The Nova Star returns to Portland last September.