The Portland City Council unanimously approved a contract Monday to extend the season for the Portland-to-Yarmouth Nova Scotia ferry service by two weeks.

The new lease would also allow the Bay Ferries to lease the ground-floor space in the Ocean Gateway terminal building for an additional $1,400 a month. All told, the amended agreement is expected to generate an additional $16,600 in revenue for the city, which last year received $265,000 in rent, parking and fees.

“We expect we will have more ridership this season and more fees to the city,” said City Councilor David Brenerman, who leads the Economic Development Committee, which negotiated the deal.

Under the new agreement, Bay Ferries will operate The Cat high-speed ferry service from May 31 to Oct. 15. Last year, The Cat ferried 35,551 passengers during the 2016 season, which ran from June 1 to Sept. 31, though the first voyage did not occur until June 15.

The Cat carried fewer passengers than its predecessor, The Nova Star, which carried 59,000 people in 2014 and 52,000 people in 2015. However, Bay Ferries Chairman and CEO Mark MacDonald said he was pleased with ferry’s first season.

While the previous agreement with the city contained so-called blackout days to avoid conflicts with Portland’s busy fall cruise ship season, the new agreement limits The Cat’s arrivals and departures to four or five days each week during the fall.

The Cat’s current schedule indicates the ferry will run five days a week through the end of June, then six days a week until the end of July, and then seven days a week until the early September. It will go back down to five days a week in September, and four days from Oct. 3 to 15. It departs Yarmouth every day at 8:30 a.m. Atlantic time and leaves Portland at 2:30 p.m. Eastern time.

The Cat can carry at least 700 passengers and more than 200 regular passenger vehicles. It makes the crossing between Portland and Yarmouth in about 5½ hours.

The high-speed ferry service replaced the slower Nova Star ferry, which took twice as long to make the trek.

The 2017 ferry season starts as the service has become a political flashpoint in Nova Scotia, which is expected to hold an election for a new premier this year. Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie has vowed to end the service, which is heavily subsidized by the Canadian government, according to the Nova Scotia-based Chronicle Herald.

Randy Billings can be reached at 791-6346 or at:

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Twitter: @randybillings

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