The Nova Star, which finished a disappointing inaugural season ferrying passengers between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, will leave the Canadian port on Saturday and sail to Fort Pierce, Florida.

It’s unclear what the ferry will do when it arrives in Florida. Nova Star Cruises Ltd., which operates the ferry service, is still in negotiations to find a winter route for the ferry, according to company spokesman Dennis Bailey.

The $165 million vessel is departing Yarmouth because the boat’s heating system must be maintained to protect the ship’s operating systems, and that cost will become too expensive when the cold weather arrives, Bailey said.

Moving the vessel to Florida will lower operating costs in the offseason and assure the ferry will be ready if a winter route is secured, he said.

Bailey said the company is now in “advanced negotiations” with another company for a winter route. Information about that route will be announced when a deal is finalized, he said.

Fort Pierce, located on Florida’s East Coast about two hours outside of Orlando, has several private facilities that serve cargo vessels that travel to the Bahamian and Caribbean islands.

According to MarineTraffic.com, which uses vessel geographic information system data to track ship positions, the Nova Star is scheduled to arrive in Fort Pierce on Wednesday.

A winter route would provide Nova Star Cruises with much-needed revenue and save the company the cost of winter storage.

The ferry carried 59,000 passengers in its inaugural season, well short of the company’s goal of 100,000 passengers.

The Nova Scotia government had planned to advance the company $21 million (Canadian) in forgivable loans over seven years.

But the ferry operator spent all that money in the first season. The provincial government allocated another $5 million so the company could pay its bills. The company has sought help from Gov. Paul LePage in getting a loan from a commercial bank in Maine.

The vessel has been berthed in Yarmouth Harbor since its season ended Oct. 13, three weeks ahead of its scheduled conclusion.

In September, the company’s CEO and president, Mark Amundsen, at a public event in Portland, said the company had found a winter route, which would be announced in a week. But no announcement has been made to date.


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