The province has received business plans from three companies interested in operating a ferry in Yarmouth, putting residents and businesses in southwest Nova Scotia one step closer to having a ferry. “There was significant interest from experienced ferry operators around the world and we are pleased to see three of these companies develop that interest into business plans,” said Graham Steele, Minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism. “The next step is for those plans to be carefully evaluated to see if they meet the criteria to run a viable, sustainable ferry service between Yarmouth and the United States.” The deadline for proposals was Thursday, July 4. The companies that made submissions are Balearia Caribbean, Ltd., P and O Ferries and STM/Quest. A team of representatives from the Nova Scotia International Ferry Partnership and government departments will evaluate the plans as quickly as possible. The plans will be assessed based on criteria similar to the request for proposals. Criteria include financial stability, a management structure with expertise and a history of managing successful ferry services, and tourism and marketing experience. The ferry partnership continues to play a key role by providing expert advice, promoting the opportunity, contacting companies, acting as a local contact and now evaluating plans. “I want to thank the community, tourism leaders and the international ferry partnership for their passion, hard work and dedication to making a new, viable ferry a reality,” said Mr. Steele. The province remains committed to investing up to $21 million over seven years to a qualified operator with a viable and sustainable business plan showing a viable service. The target is to have a ferry service up and running in 2014, as recommended by the expert ferry panel. The document outlining the opportunity is available at http://novascotia.ca/econ/publications/ .