Officials from Nova Scotia said Thursday that they are pleased with the amount of cooperation they have received from Gov. Paul LePage’s administration following a meeting to discuss the ferry service between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, with the governor and several of his Cabinet members.

They all agreed Maine will send a delegation to Nova Scotia as quickly as possible to discuss in more detail how the province and state can support the Nova Star ferry, said Geoff MacLellan, the Nova Scotia minister of transportation.

“We are going to work together towards a long-term partnership, and everything is very positive,” he said.

LePage also is looking forward to the collaboration, the governor’s spokeswoman said.

“Gov. LePage is enthusiastic about the economic opportunities this venture will bring to both regions,” Adrienne Bennett said.

MacLellan said Maine and Nova Scotia can both do more to develop marketing efforts that promote the ferry and its ports of call on each end of the route.

Portland Mayor Michael Brennan, who met with the delegation later in the day, said Nova Scotia officials told him they are committed to the ferry route between Portland and Yarmouth and are not looking to replace Portland with Bar Harbor.

“They assured me that Bar Harbor is not under consideration,” Brennan said.

MacLellan was accompanied by two senior Nova Scotia transportation officials and Zach Churchill, who represents Yarmouth in the Nova Scotia legislature.

The group met with LePage in the morning in Augusta and traveled to Portland for meetings in the afternoon.

In Portland, the group also met with Brennan, Greg Mitchell, Portland’s economic development director; Lynn Tillotson, who heads the Greater Portland Convention and Visitors Bureau; and Steve Hewins, executive director of Portland’s Downtown District.

The group also met with John Henshaw of the Maine Port Authority to discuss the $27 million that the state and city spent to build the Ocean Gateway terminal, which the ferry uses, and the commercial potential for shipping freight on the ferry.

This year, the state spent another $640,000 on a new gangway and catwalk for the ferry, and the city spent $500,000 to repave the queuing area and rebuild the sea wall there.

The Nova Scotia government spent $28.5 million subsidizing the ferry service last year, and this year has committed to spend an additional $13 million in subsidies.

Many of the province’s residents are upset that Nova Scotia is subsidizing the ferry service without any help from Maine, and they accuse LePage of failing to deliver on a promise they believe he made to give $5 million in state funds toward the service, according to numerous letters to editors, comments on social media and calls to radio talk shows.

But the Nova Scotia officials said Thursday that LePage never made such a promise and that many Nova Scotia residents misunderstand the situation.

MacLellan said LePage has only offered to help Nova Star Cruises get a $5 million loan from a commercial bank in Maine. While the state can help by backing a portion of the loan, the company has yet to find a bank willing to lend it the money, MacLellan said.

Churchill said the state of Maine and the city of Portland have been good partners.

“We do have a problem with perception in Nova Scotia that the state of Maine and Portland haven’t come to the table to support the vessel, and that’s not true,” he said. “There has been great support in Maine and Portland to help this vessel get up and running.”

The ferry last year carried 59,000 passengers, far short of the 100,000 that had been anticipated. Mark Amundsen, president and CEO of Nova Star Cruises, said Thursday that ticket sales this year are on track to exceed 80,000 passengers, which is the goal for the season.

From June 25 to July 25, the ferry will carry 17 tour buses. Last year, the ferry carried only one motor coach in that period, Amundsen said.

The Nova Scotia delegation Thursday night rode back to Yarmouth on the ferry, along with about 270 passengers. The ferry’s effective capacity is 750.

Churchill said he was impressed with Portland as a tourism destination and plans to return to the city next month with a delegation of Yarmouth tourism officials so they can meet with Portland’s tourism industry leaders and learn from them.

“They have done a really great job here,” he said, looking toward the Old Port from the Ocean Gateway terminal. “Look at how vibrant this city is. It’s incredible.”@TomBellPortland

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