The ferry that shuttled between Portland and Nova Scotia last summer is sailing for a warmer climate so its operator can save money.

The Nova Star began its journey from Shelburne, Nova Scotia, to Charleston, South Carolina, on Thursday, while Nova Scotia’s government released a report showing that the ferry operator accounted for nearly all the money it spent last year and only negligible expenditures lacked receipts.

The ship is going south because it’s too expensive to heat it and remove ice from it while it’s berthed in Nova Scotia, a company spokesman told Nova Scotia media on Thursday. The plan calls for the ship to return to the province just before the sailing season, which last year began in mid-May.

Mark Amundsen, president and CEO of Nova Star Cruises, said in a news release Thursday that the move will also ensure that the ferry is in a “ready-state if alternate work is secured.”

On Monday, Amundsen told the Portland Press Herald that the company has found a winter route for the ship but negotiations are taking longer than expected.

Paul Woodbury, a ferry consultant and former operations manager for P&O European Ferries, said it’s unlikely that the vessel will get any work this winter.

“My view is, the only work likely now is as an emergency backup if any local, similarly configured vessel is out of action,” he said.

Amundsen and the company representatives in Maine and Nova Scotia did not return calls Thursday.

According to the report by KPMG, an international consulting company, Nova Star Cruises spent $30 million on startup and operating expenses through Sept. 30. The service ended three weeks early, on Oct. 13, because of a lack of bus tour bookings.

The report, released Thursday by the provincial government, redacted details about specific expenditures, such as sales, salaries and corporate overhead.

KPMG was hired to also give the province strategic advice about the continuation of the ferry service. But no such advice was in the report released Thursday.

The province and Nova Star Cruises have been negotiating a contract for the upcoming season. A start date for the service has not been announced, and tickets are not on sale. There is no word on when the service would start or end the 2015 season.

Nova Scotia 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. Maine, to date, has not contributed any money to the service.

The ferry service had a disappointing inaugural season, carrying 59,000 passengers, well short of the 100,000 company officials had anticipated.

On Thursday afternoon, the ship was heading south at 10.5 knots, about half its cruising speed, according to, a website that uses data from an automatic tracking system used on ships. Ships save fuel by traveling slowly. The vessel is due to arrive in Charleston on Tuesday.

Tom Bell can be reached at 791-6369 or at:

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