Monday, December 21, 2009

Maine: pre-holiday news roundup

For fellow Mainers, a few items of interest before everything shuts down for the Christmas holiday:

Ferries and Fuel. We learned recently that The Cat, our ferry link to Nova Scotia, won't be returning next year, barring a change of heart in Halifax, where provincial officials had decided not to renew subsidies that had kept the seasonal service alive. What most news outlets haven't asked is why The Cat needed a subsidy. After all, its predecessor, the Scotia Prince, operated without one for decades before abandoning the route (after a nasty scuffle with the city of Portland over mold in their terminal building.)

The underlying problem is fuel. As I reported long ago in The Bollard, most high speed ferries stopped making economic sense when world fuel prices shot up. Throw in an economic downturn, the tightening of the US-Canada border, and the loss of the Scotia Prince's cruise ship-like experience, and The Cat became an endangered species.

Another question to be asked: what's this mean for Portland's troubled Ocean Gateway Terminal, now deprived of any real raison d'etre? Some background here.

Maine Republican Quits. Furious over the GOP's resistance to health care reform, Maine legislator Jim Campbell (R-Newfield) is leaving his party, an event that's receiving national attention today. US Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins (who both voted against the health care bill) aren't expected to follow his lead. [Update, 1/28/10: Mike Tipping has posted a revealing interview with Campbell.]

Port Reopens. Some good news: Portland's container port is up and running again, at least for now, with the restoration of scheduled barge service to the port of New York and New Jersey (where cargoes are transhipped to the rest of the planet.) The International Marine Terminal has been closed off and on, its fate tied to that of a paper mill in Old Town.

Ocean Observing System Saved? As I've reported in the past, the popular and scientifically-vital Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System suffered a partial collapse this year due to a failure of will in Washington, D.C. This month, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute announced it was merging with GoMoos, although its not yet clear exactly what this means for the rump system. I'm working on getting some answers, though, so stay tuned. [Update, 2/4/10: my GMRI story here.]


  1. Hi Colin -

    I don't know if this story has answers you're looking for, but as for the question in your subhed about GoMOOS, it seems that the answer is "probably not." Here's the link:
    Bill Trotter

  2. Thanks for the note, Bill. I did see that story, which does make clear there's no pot of money with which to solve GoMOOS' problems. I should clarify: given that, what *does* the GMRI merger mean for ocean observing? Answers are coming up in my Parallel 44 column in the February issue of Working Waterfront. (Links here at Worldwide Woodard when it posts.)