A Maine company that says it has secured a vessel and wants to restart the Yarmouth ferry this summer intends to follow a European business model of a year-round combined commercial cargo and passenger service.
Quest Navigation Inc. of Eliot is one of two companies proposing to operate the service between Portland, Maine, and Yarmouth.
President Mark Amundsen said his company has received many cargo commitments but declined to name them “because that’s proprietary to our business plan right now.”
Amundsen said running cargo outside tourist season is vital to the business.
“Quite frankly, without the commercial business, this venture is not a sustainable or profitable one. There’s just not enough business,” he said in a telephone interview Friday.
“And you could see that by the amount of people that responded to the (request for proposals).
“Unless you have work for the vessel in another market where you have another use for it, there’s no business plan that works.”
Quest announced Thursday that it has secured a five-year lease agreement on a never-before-used $165-million vessel originally built to cross the English Channel. The agreement includes a purchase option after that period.
The vessel, currently in Singapore, would be christened the Nova Star and feature 162 cabins, two restaurants, a casino and capacity for more than 1,200 passengers, with standard business-class seating and an option to install first-class sleeper berths.
Some final touches, about two to three weeks of work, remains on the vessel, Amundsen said.
The company has contracted Florida-based Maritime Holdings Group, which operates four ferries, to manage the crew and hotel operations of the Nova Star.
“It’s a perfect size. In my research, there’s only six vessels worldwide that meet all the criteria … and the other five vessels are committed in full employment,” Amundsen said. No definitive schedules have been determined, but Amundsen said the plan is to offer two nine-hour crossings per day during the tourist season, with a view to starting up as early as June 1.
The province has agreed to contribute $21 million over seven years to get a service started, and a decision on the winning bid is expected in the next several weeks.
“After the initial startup phase, we do not foresee the need for ongoing subsidies,” Amundsen said.
The other company in the process, engineering firm Maritime Applied Physics Corp. of Baltimore, has also sought out a ferry operator as a partner.
“We’re not naive that we can just jump in and run a ferry service, but we put together a team that we feel is pretty qualified and the ferry operator that we are teamed with is extremely qualified,” business development manager Richard Frost said in an interview from the company’s Brunswick, Maine, office.
Frost declined to go into further detail regarding plans for a Yarmouth-to-Portland ferry.
“When we submitted our proposal and we found out that we were one of two people submitting, at their request we agreed not to discuss details of our proposal. So we’re going to honour that.”
Amundsen, who has 30 years of experience in marine transportation, said he decided to unveil some details about his plan in order to dispel what he called misinformation about his company, which he founded last May.
“There was a lot of information out in the press that no one knew who we are. And we just wanted to give a limited approach of who we are, and that way everyone could be comfortable that we have a serious proposal.”