Bay Ferries Limited

From Academic Kids

Bay Ferries Limited, referred to simply as Bay Ferries, is a ferry company operating in eastern Canada and the United States and is headquartered in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. It is a subsidiary of Northumberland Ferries Limited (NFL).

Bay Ferries began operations in 1997 upon being awarded the operating licenses for ferry routes in the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine which were being discontinued by federal Crown corporation Marine Atlantic as part of cost-cutting measures.


Bay of Fundy

Bay Ferries operates the ferry service across the Bay of Fundy between Saint John, New Brunswick and Digby, Nova Scotia using the ferry Princess of Acadia. This ferry service was a continuation of steamship service begun in the 1800s and expanded upon by the Dominion Atlantic Railway and subsequently the Canadian Pacific Railway. The service originally operated from dockside rail facilities at Long Wharf in Saint John and the current public wharf in Digby.

The current terminals in Saint John and Digby were constructed in 1969 by the federal government under an agreement with Canadian Pacific and the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. CP was to build a new ferry Princess of Acadia (built in 1971), the federal government would construct and own the new ferry terminals, and the provincial governments would construct new roads to link the terminals with the respective highway networks. If CP ever encountered an operating loss, it was agreed that the federal government would take over responsibility for the service.

The service became unprofitable for CP in 1974 and the federal government stepped in, providing an operating subsidy to maintain the service. In 1976, the service (and the vessel Princess of Acadia) were transferred to Canadian National Railway and in 1977 was grouped under the new CN subsdiary CN Marine. In 1986 this subsidiary was made a separate Crown corporation Marine Atlantic.

Bay Ferries has continued to operate the year-round service since 1997 using Princess of Acadia which, along with the ferry terminals, is owned by the Government of Canada. In return for operating the ferry and terminals, Bay Ferries receives a federal subsidy. Crossing time is approximately 3 hours.

Gulf of Maine

Bay Ferries operates the ferry service across the Gulf of Maine between Yarmouth, Nova Scotia and Bar Harbor, Maine using a high speed catamaran ferry service using the marketing name "The Cat".

This ferry route was initiated in 1955 by the Government of Canada at the insistence of tourism operators and fish exporters in southwestern Nova Scotia. Throughout the 1800s and early 1900s, steamship service from Yarmouth to New York, Boston and Portland, Maine had been provided by various operators, lastly the Dominion Atlantic Railway, subsequently Canadian Pacific Railway. The resurrected service in 1955 saw new ferry terminals constructed in Yarmouth and Bar Harbor and used the newly commissioned ferry MV Bluenose, named after Nova Scotia's famous racing schooner Bluenose.

The service was operated by Canadian National Railways (later Canadian National Railway) and in 1977 was included in the CN reorganization which created CN Marine. In 1982 a newer vessel MV Stena Jutlandica was purchased and renamed MV Bluenose (replacing the previous vessel). In 1986 CN Marine became Marine Atlantic which continued to operate the service, although it was scaled back to a seasonal May-October operation by the mid-1990s. Since the Gulf of Maine service operated to the United States, the vessel was not owned by the Government of Canada and was solely the responsibility of CN and later Marine Atlantic.

Following government-mandated service cutbacks to Marine Atlantic in the mid-1990s, Bay Ferries was formed as a subsidiary of NFL and successfully bid for the right to operate the Yarmouth-Bar Harbor route. Upon taking control of the operation in 1997, Bay Ferries continued to operate the MV Bluenose that year, after which it was sold.

Bay Ferries entered into a purchase agreement with Incat in Hobart Australia for the Incat 046, a high speed catamaran ferry, and began using the term "The Cat" in logos on the vessel and in Bay Ferries marketing material. The introduction of "The Cat" service was with great fanfare in Canadian and American media as this was the first, and currently the fastest, high speed ferry in North America, cutting the trip time from 6 hours to under 2 hours. In 2002, Incat 046 was traded in for the newer Incat 059, the current vessel in service.

The high speed ferry can operate between both ports in 2 hours and 30 minutes, compared with a crossing time of over 6 hours using a conventional ferry vessel. It should be noted that the high speed service is seasonal and does not operate during the late fall, winter and early spring when severe ocean storms could inhibit crossings, although the conventional vessels were year-round services.

The federal government maintains ownership of the ferry terminal in Yarmouth but has given Bay Ferries operating and management rights to the facility.

Lake Ontario

On February 28, 2005 Rochester Ferry Company LLC, a subsidiary of the City of Rochester, New York purchased the high speed catamaran Spirit of Ontario I in a bankruptcy auction after the service on Lake Ontario between Rochester and Toronto, Ontario was suspended in September, 2004 after only 11 weeks. In April 2005, the city selected Northumberland Ferries Limited to operate the service and NFL established a separate subsidiary, Bay Ferries Great Lakes Limited for its Rochester-Toronto operation. This is a sister company to Bay Ferries Limited as both companies are subsidiaries of NFL.

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