Board of Commissioners Sued by The Cat for “Illegal” Fee Increase


A Photograph of The Cat, the High-Speed Ferry Service Between Nova Scotia and Portland.

Late last month Bay Ferries, Limited sued the Board of Commissioners for the Port of Portland and the Portland Pilots for the illegal increase, (70%)  in pilot fees levied against Bay Ferries, d/b/a The Cat, the ferry that runs daily between Yarmouth, NS and Portland Harbor.

According to the complaint filed by attorneys for Bay Ferries on August 24, 2017, “On May 11, 2017, the Board of Commissioners voted to approve an increase in pilot fees from $709.00 to $1,200. each way.”  That’s a 70 percent increase that was levied against the plaintiff with no notice of the action until ten days after the vote by the Board of Commissioners on May 11th.

The Board of Commissioners failed to notify Bay Ferries, (“BF”) of the excessive rate increase sought by the Portland Pilots, and failed to notify other parties that it is required to do by Maine law.  That includes the Maine Department of Transportation as well as both the Portland City Council and the South Portland City Council.  The Board also failed to put the rate increase in writing as it is required to do which gives BF time to appeal the case according to the complaint filed by Harold C. Pachios and Matthew S. Warner, of Preti, Flaherty, Beliveau & Pachios, attorneys for the plaintiff.

Ten days following the aforesaid May 11 meeting, Portland Pilots sent a notice to Bay Ferries stating that the Commissioners, (organized under Maine State Law) approved the 70% rate increase effective on June 1, 2017.  This was news to BF as they’d received no communication from the Board that such a proposal was on the May 11 agenda.  If BF had received notice that the fee increase was on the agenda, it would have appeared and presented its case in opposition to the rate increase.

Furthermore, BF was threatened with arrest by the Portland Pilots if it did not comply with the rate hike beginning on June 1st.  BF decided to comply with the request in order not to disrupt passenger service at the time.

According to the complaint, BF is asking the Superior Court to reverse the Commission’s decision to approve the Portland Pilots’ petition for a 70 % rate increase, return the matter to the Harbor Commission for proceedings that comply with the Court’s opinion, award damages to BF for the excess rate increase paid since June 1st and other relief detailed in the complaint.

Jenn Thompson, a Portland city attorney, who is representing the defendants had no comment on the matter today. Why, she a city attorney is representing a state-organized  Board and Portland Pilots (a private entity) is unclear to  (Portland Pilots don’t make enough $$ to hire its own attorney? The City’s spokeswoman has not responded to a email asking this question.)  Harold C. Pachios, representing BF, had no comment either on the lawsuit.

(note:  City Hall was not cooperative when sought information on the above lawsuit.  In fact, it gave the “run-around” and stalled efforts of to get basic information on the lawsuit –  apparently to keep this lawsuit from seeing “daylight.”)