Native Americans originally called the Portland peninsula Machigonne ("Great Neck"). Portland, Maine, was named for the English Isle of Portland, and the city of Portland, Oregon, was in turn named for Portland, Maine. The first European settler was Capt. Christopher Levett, an English naval captain granted 6,000 acres (2,400 ha) in 1623 to found a settlement in Casco Bay. A member of the Council for New England and agent for Ferdinando Gorges, Levett built a stone house where he left a company of ten men, then returned to England and wrote a book about his voyage to drum up support for the settlement. The settlement failed, and the fate of Levett's colonists is unknown. The explorer sailed from England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony to meet John Winthrop in 1630, but never returned to Maine. Fort Levett in the harbor is named for him.
The peninsula was first permanently settled in 1632 as a fishing and trading village named Casco. When the Massachusetts Bay Colony took over Casco Bay in 1658, the town's name changed again to Falmouth. In 1676, the village was destroyed by the Abenaki during King Philip's War. It was rebuilt. During King William's War, a raiding party of French and Native allies attacked and largely destroyed it again in the Battle of Fort Loyal (1690).
On October 18, 1775, Falmouth was burned in the Revolution by the Royal Navy under command of Captain Henry Mowat.
Following the war, a section of Falmouth called The Neck developed as a commercial port and began to grow rapidly as a shipping center. In 1786, the citizens of Falmouth formed a separate town in Falmouth Neck and named it Portland, after the isle off the coast of Dorset, England. Portland's economy was greatly stressed by the Embargo Act of 1807 (prohibition of trade with the British), which ended in 1809, and the War of 1812, which ended in 1815.
In 1820, Maine became a state with Portland as its capital. In 1832, the capital was moved north to Augusta. In 1851, Maine led the nation by passing the first state law prohibiting the sale of alcohol except for "medicinal, mechanical or manufacturing purposes." The law subsequently became known as the Maine law, as 18 states quickly followed. On June 2, 1855, the Portland Rum Riot occurred.
In 1853, upon completion of the Grand Trunk Railway to Montreal, Portland became the primary ice-free winter seaport for Canadian exports. The Portland Company manufactured more than 600 19th-century steam locomotives. Portland became a 20th-century rail hub as five additional rail lines merged into Portland Terminal Company in 1911. Following nationalization of the Grand Trunk system in 1923, Canadian export traffic was diverted from Portland to Halifax, Nova Scotia, resulting in marked local economic decline. In the 20th century, icebreakers later enabled ships to reach Montreal in winter, drastically reducing Portland's role as a winter port for Canada.
On June 26, 1863, a Confederate raiding party led by Captain Charles Read entered the harbor at Portland and the Battle of Portland Harbor ensued, one of the northernmost battles of the Civil War. The 1866 Great Fire of Portland, Maine, on July 4, 1866, ignited during the Independence Day celebration, destroyed most of the commercial buildings in the city, half the churches and hundreds of homes. More than 10,000 people were left homeless.
By act of the Maine Legislature in 1899, Portland annexed the city of Deering, despite a vote by Deering residents rejecting the annexation, thereby greatly increasing the size of the city and opening areas for development beyond the peninsula.
The construction of The Maine Mall, an indoor shopping center established in the suburb of South Portland, during the 1970s, economically depressed downtown Portland. The trend reversed when tourists and new businesses started revitalizing the old seaport, a part of which is known locally as the Old Port. Since the 1990s, the historically industrial Bayside neighborhood has seen rapid development, including the emerging harborside Ocean Gateway neighborhood at the base of Munjoy Hill. The Maine College of Art has been a revitalizing force downtown, attracting students from around the country. The historic Porteous building on Congress Street was restored by the College.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 69.44 square miles (179.85 km2), of which, 21.31 square miles (55.19 km2) is land and 48.13 square miles (124.66 km2) is water. Portland is on a peninsula in Casco Bay on the Gulf of Maine and the Atlantic Ocean.
Portland borders South Portland, Westbrook and Falmouth. The city is located at 43.66713 N, 70.20717 W.
Portland has a humid continental climate (Köppen: Dfb), with rather cold, snowy winters, and warm, occasionally almost hot, summers. The monthly daily average temperature ranges from 22.3 °F (−5.4 °C) in January to 69.1 °F (20.6 °C) in July. Daily high temperatures reach or exceed 90 °F (32 °C) on only 4.6 days per year on average, while cold-season lows of 0 °F (−18 °C) or below are reached on 7.7 nights per year on average. The area can be affected by severe nor'easters during winter, with high winds and snowfall totals. Annual precipitation averages 47.2 inches (1,200 mm) and is plentiful year-round, but with a slightly drier summer; snowfall averages 61.9 inches (157 cm). In coastal Maine, winter-season mid-latitude storms can be intense from November to March, while warm-season thunderstorms are markedly less frequent than in the Midwestern, Mid-Atlantic, and Southeastern U.S. Direct strikes by hurricanes or tropical storms are rare, partially due to the normally cooler Atlantic waters off the Maine coast (which weaken tropical systems), but primarily because most tropical systems approaching or reaching 40 degrees North latitude recurve (Coriolis effect), carrying most such storms well south and east of the Portland area. Extremes range from −39 °F (−39 °C) on February 16, 1943, to 103 °F (39 °C) on July 4, 1911, and August 2, 1975.
Portland is organized into neighborhoods generally recognized by residents, but they have no legal or political authority. In many cases, city signs identify neighborhoods or intersections (which are often called corners). Most city neighborhoods have a local association which usually maintains ongoing relations of varying degrees with the city government on issues affecting the neighborhood.
On March 8, 1899, Portland annexed the neighboring city of Deering. Deering neighborhoods now comprise the northern and eastern sections of the city before the merger. Portland's Deering High School was formerly the public high school for Deering.
Portland's neighborhoods include the Arts District; Bayside; Bradley's Corner; Cushing's Island; Deering Center; Deering Highlands; Downtown; East Deering; East Bayside; East End; Eastern Cemetery; Great Diamond Island; Highlands; Kennedy Park; Libbytown; Little Diamond Island; Lunt's Corner; Morrill's Corner; Munjoy Hill; Nason's Corner; North Deering; Oakdale; the Old Port; Parkside; Peaks Island; Riverton Park; Rosemont; Stroudwater; West End; and Woodford's Corner.
As of the census of 2010, there were 66,194 people, 30,725 households, and 13,324 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,106.2 inhabitants per square mile (1,199.3/km2). There were 33,836 housing units at an average density of 1,587.8 per square mile (613.1/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 85.0% White (83.6% non-Hispanic White alone), down from 96.6% in 1990, 7.1% African American, 0.5% Native American, 3.5% Asian, 1.2% from other races, and 2.7% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.0% of the population. 40.7% of the population had a bachelor's degree or higher. Men's Health ranked Portland the ninth most educated city in America.
There were 30,725 households of which 20.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 29.7% were married couples living together, 10.1% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.6% had a male householder with no wife present, and 56.6% were non-families. 40.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.07 and the average family size was 2.88.
The median age in the city was 36.7 years. 17.1% of residents were under the age of 18; 11.4% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 33.1% were from 25 to 44; 25.9% were from 45 to 64; and 12.6% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.8% male and 51.2% female.
As of the census of 2000, there were 64,250 people, 29,714 households, and 13,549 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,029.2 people per square mile (1,169.6/km²). There were 31,862 housing units at an average density of 1,502.2 per square mile (580.0/km²).
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Portland's immediate metropolitan area ranked 147th in the nation in 2000 with a population of 243,537, while the Portland/South Portland/Biddeford metropolitan area included 487,568 total inhabitants. This has increased to an estimated 513,102 inhabitants (and the largest metro area in Northern New England) as of 2007. Much of this increase in population has been due to growth in the city's southern and western suburbs.
The racial makeup of the city was 91.27% White, 2.59% African American, 0.47% Native American, 3.08% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.67% from other races, and 1.86% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.52% of the population.
The largest ancestries include: British (including Scottish, Welsh, and English) (21.2%), Irish (19.2%), French (10.8%), Italian (10.5%), and German (6.9%).
There were 29,714 households out of which 21.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 32.1% were married couples living together, 10.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 54.4% were non-families. 40.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.08 and the average family size was 2.89.
In the city, the population was spread out with 18.8% under the age of 18, 10.7% from 18 to 24, 36.1% from 25 to 44, 20.6% from 45 to 64, and 13.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 91.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.0 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $35,650, and the median income for a family was $48,763. Males had a median income of $31,828 versus $27,173 for females. The per capita income for the city was $22,698. About 9.7% of families and 14.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.5% of those under age 18 and 11.9% of those age 65 or over.
Portland has become Maine's economic capital because the city has Maine's largest port, largest population, and is close to Boston (105 miles to the south). Over the years, the local economy has shifted from fishing, manufacturing and agriculture towards a more service-based economy. Most national financial services organizations such as Bank of America, and Key Bank base their Maine operations in Portland. Unum, Magellan Petroleum, Maine Bank & Trust, ImmuCell Corp, and Pioneer Telephone have headquarters here, and Portland's neighboring cities of South Portland, Westbrook and Scarborough, provide homes for other corporations. Since 1867, Burnham & Morrill Co., maker of B&M Baked Beans, has had its main plant in Portland. The plant is considered a local and state landmark.
The city's port is also undergoing a revival and the first ever container train departed from the new International Marine Terminal with 15 containers of locally produced bottled water recently.
Americold, a US-based international provider of temperature-controlled storage and distribution, won the port authority's bid to develop a state-of-the-art temperature-controlled storage facility adjacent to the port. The facility will support perishable produce, meats and seafood imports and exports directly through the port and is slated to have construction begin in December 2016.
Portland has a low unemployment level when compared to national and state averages; being 3% as of June 2017. Portland and surrounding communities also have higher median incomes than most other Maine communities.
Portland is home to increased urban farming, particularly in the East Bayside neighborhood.
The Arts District, centered on Congress Street, is home to the Portland Museum of Art, Portland Stage Company, Maine Historical Society & Museum, Portland Public Library, Maine College of Art, Children's Museum of MaineMerrill Auditorium, the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ, and Portland Symphony Orchestra, as well as many smaller art galleries and studios.
Baxter Boulevard around Back Cove, Deering Oaks Park, the Eastern Promenade, Western Promenade, Lincoln Park and Riverton Park are all historical parks within the city. Other parks and natural spaces include Payson Park, Post Office Park, Baxter Woods, Evergreen Cemetery, Western Cemetery and the Fore River Sanctuary.
In the 2010s, Thompson's Point, located in the Libbytown neighborhood, began a process of renovation and development,. The location hosts a concert venue, ice rink, hotels, restaurants, wineries and breweries.
Other sites of interest include:
The spire of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception has been a notable feature of the Portland skyline since its completion in 1854. In 1859, Ammi B. Young designed the Marine Hospital, the first of three local works by Supervising Architects of the U.S. Treasury Department. Although the city lost to redevelopment its 1867 Greek Revival post office, which was designed by Alfred B. Mullett of white Vermont marble and featured a Corinthian portico, Portland retains his equally monumental 1872 granite Second Empire–Renaissance Revival custom house.
A more recent building of note is Franklin Towers, a 16-story residential tower completed in 1969. At 175 feet (53 meters), it is Portland's (as well as Maine's) tallest building. It is next to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on the city skyline. During the building boom of the 1980s, several new buildings rose on the peninsula, including the 1983 Charles Shipman Payson Building by Henry N. Cobb of Pei, Cobb, Freed & Partners at the Portland Museum of Art complex (a component of which is the 1801 McLellan-Sweat Mansion), and the Back Bay Tower, a 15-story residential building completed in 1990.
477 Congress Street (known locally as the Time and Temperature Building) is situated near Monument Square in the Arts District and is a major landmark: the 14-story building features a large electronic sign on its roof that flashes time and temperature data, as well as parking ban information in the winter. The sign can be seen from nearly all of downtown Portland. The building is home to several radio stations.
The Eastland Park Hotel, completed in 1927, is a prominent hotel located on High Street in downtown Portland. Photographer Todd Webb lived in Portland during his later years and took many pictures of the city. Some of Webb's pictures of Portland can be found at the Evans Gallery in South Portland.
Portland is home to a concentration of publishing and broadcast companies, advertising agencies, web designers, commercial photography studios and film makers.
The city is home to two daily newspapers: The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram founded in 1862 and The Portland Daily Sun. The Press Herald is published Monday through Saturday, and The Maine Sunday Telegram is published on Sundays. Both are published by MaineToday Media, Inc., which also operates an entertainment website, and owns papers in Augusta, Waterville and Bath. The Daily Sun began operation in 2009; it is owned and published by the Conway Daily Sun in North Conway, New Hampshire.
Portland is also covered by an alternative weekly newspaper, The Portland Phoenix, published by the Phoenix Media/Communications Group, which also produces a New England-wide news, arts, and entertainment website, , and a twice-annual GLBT issues magazine, Out In Maine.
Other publications include The Portland Forecaster, a weekly newspaper; The Bollard, a monthly alternative magazine; , The Munjoy Hill Observer, The Baysider, The Waterfront, Portland Magazine, and , an LGBT publication. Portland is also the home office of The Exception Magazine, an online newspaper that covers Maine.
The Portland broadcast media market is the largest one in Maine in both radio and television. A whole host of radio station are located in Portland, including WFNK (Classic Hits); WJJB (Sports); WTHT (Country); WBQW (Classical); WHXR (Rock); WHOM (Adult Contemporary); WJBQ (Top 40); WCLZ (Adult Album Alternative); WBLM (Classic Rock); WYNZ ('60s-'70s Hits); and WCYY (Modern rock). WMPG is a local non-commercial radio station run by community members and the University of Southern Maine. The Maine Public Broadcasting Network's (MPBN) radio news operations are based in Portland.
The area is served by local television stations representing most of the television networks. These stations include WCSH 6 (NBC), WMTW 8 (ABC), WGME 13 (CBS), WPFO 23 (Fox), WPME 35 (MyNetworkTV), and WPXT 51 (The CW). There is no PBS affiliate licensed to the city of Portland, but the market is served by MPBN outlets WCBB Channel 10 in Augusta and WMEA-TV Channel 26 Biddeford.
The city is home to three minor league teams. The Portland Sea Dogs, the Double-A farm team of the Boston Red Sox, play at Hadlock Field. The Maine Red Claws, the NBA G League affiliate of the Boston Celtics, play at the Portland Exposition Building. The GPS Portland Phoenix soccer teams plays in the Premier Development League.
Previously, Portland was home of several minor league ice hockey teams: the Maine Nordiques (NAHL) from 1973 to 1977, the Maine Mariners (AHL) from 1977 to 1992, and the Portland Pirates (AHL) from 1993 to 2016. The Mariners were three-time Calder Cup winners. In 2018, Portland will get another Maine Mariners in the ECHL.
The Portland Sports Complex, located off of Park and Brighton Avenues near I-295 and Deering Oaks park, houses several of the city's stadiums and arenas, including:
Cross Insurance Arena has 6,733 permanent seats. It was renovated in 2014. (see picture)
The Portland area has eleven professional golf courses, 124 tennis courts, and 95 playgrounds. There are also over 100 miles (160 km) of nature trails.
Portland hosts the Maine Marathon each October.
Bayside Bowl was expanded in 2017 to 20 lanes, including a rooftop deck. It is hosting the 2017 PBA League and Elias Cup in April.
Memorial Stadium is the home of the Deering High School sports teams and is located behind the school.
The downtown area of Portland, including the Arts District and the Old Port, has a high concentration of eating and drinking establishments, with many more to be found throughout the rest of the peninsula, outlying neighborhoods, and neighboring communities.
Portland ranks among the top U.S. cities in restaurants and bars per capita. According to the TripAdvisor, Portland is currently home to about 389 restaurants.
Portland has developed a national reputation for the quality of its restaurants and eateries. In 2009, Portland was named the "Foodiest Small Town in America" by Bon Appétit magazine, and was featured in the New York Times as a food destination.
In the spring of 2007, Portland was nominated as one of three finalists for "Delicious Destination of the Year" at the 2007 Food Network Awards.
Many local chefs have gained national attention over the past few years.
The city and outlying region played host to Rachael Ray in an episode of her Food Network Series $40 a Day, and was also featured in the Travel Channel series Man v. Food and Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations in 2010.
In 2015, Portland ranked 14th on Travel + Leisure's end of year list, "America's 20 Best Cities for Beer Lovers".
Portland is home to a number of microbreweries and brewpubs, including the D. L. Geary Brewing Company, Gritty McDuff's Brewing Company, Shipyard Brewing Company, Casco Bay Brewing Company, and Allagash Brewing Company.
Portland is the birthplace of the Italian sandwich. Southern Maine's signature sandwich, it is called simply "an Italian" by locals. Italian sandwiches are available at many stores, but most famously at Amato's Italian delicatessens, which claims to have originated the sandwich (hence the name).
The Portland Farmers' Market, which has been in continuous operation since 1768, takes place every Wednesday morning in Monument Square and every Saturday in Deering Oaks Park from early May to the end of November, and every Saturday indoors at 200 Anderson Street in the East Bayside Neighborhood, from early December to the end of April. Fresh fish and seafood can be purchased at a number of markets on the wharves along Commercial Street, and numerous artisan bread makers bake fresh loaves every day.
Appreciation for sustainable food and farming gained a significant boost throughout the state in the 1970s when back-to-the-landers moved to Maine in droves. With them came the resurgence of farmers' markets (including the expansion of the Portland market), a significant organic farming movement and an increased interest in plant-based cuisine. The echoes of this movement continue in Portland, where restaurants emphasize local and organic food and where the state's greatest concentration of vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly restaurants can be found.
Portland hosts a number of food and beverage festivals, including:
The city has adopted a council-manager style government The citizens of Portland are represented by a nine-member city council which makes policy, passes ordinances, approves appropriations, appoints the city manager and oversees the municipal government. The city council of nine members is elected by the citizens of Portland. The city has five voting districts, with each district electing a city councilor to represent their neighborhood interests for a three-year term. There are also four members of the city council who are elected at-large.
From 1923 until 2011, city councilors chose one of themselves each year to serve as mayor, a primarily ceremonial position. Two of the most long lasting mayors, with 20 years each, were Connor Knoblock and Conner Walton. On November 2, 2010, Portland voters narrowly approved a measure that allowed them to elect the mayor. On November 8, 2011, former State Senator and candidate for U.S. Congress Michael F. Brennan was elected as mayor. On December 5, 2011, he was sworn in as the first citizen-elected mayor in 88 years (see Portland, Maine mayoral election, 2011). The office of mayor is a four-year paid position. The current mayor is Ethan Strimling, who defeated Brennan in the 2015 election.
A city manager is appointed by the city council. The city manager oversees the daily operations of the city government, appoints the heads of city departments, and prepares annual budgets. The city manager directs all city agencies and departments, and is responsible for the executing laws and policies passed by the city council. The current city manager is Jon Jennings.
Aside from the main city council, there is also an elected school board for the Portland Public School system. The school board is made up in the same manner of the city council, with five district members, four at-large members and one chairman. There are also three students from the local high schools elected to serve on the board. There are many other boards and committees such as the Planning Committee, Board of Appeals, and Harbor Commission, etc. These committees and boards have limited power in their respective areas of expertise. Members of boards and committees are appointed by city council members.
On November 5, 2013, Portland voters overwhelmingly approved an ordinance to legalize the possession and private use of cannabis for adults, making the city the first municipality in the Eastern United States to do so.
The Portland Fire Department (PFD) provides fire protection and emergency medical services to the city of Portland 24/7, 365. Established in 1768, the PFD is made up of over 230 paid, professional firefighters and operates out of 7 Fire Stations, located throughout the city, in addition to Fire Stations staffed by "on-call" firefighters on Peaks Island; Great Diamond Island; Cushing Island; and Cliff Island. The Portland Fire Department also operates an Airport Division Station at 1001 Westbrook St., at the Portland International Jetport, and a Marine Division Station, located at 54 Commercial St.
The Portland Fire Department also operates a fire apparatus fleet of 4 Engine Companies (5 when manpower permits); 4 Ladder Companies (including 2 Quints); 1 Rescue Company; 1 Hazardous Materials (Haz-Mat.) Unit; 1 Confined-Space Rescue Unit; 5 ARFF Crash Rescue Units; 3 Marine Units (Fireboats); 5 MEDCU Units (Ambulances); and numerous other special, support, and reserve units. Island "call" firefighters man a total of 4 Engines, 1 Ladder, 4 Water Tank Units, and 3 MEDCU Units (Ambulances).
Each frontline fire company is staffed by 1 Officer and 2 Firefighters per shift. Each MEDCU Unit (Ambulance) is staffed by 2 Firefighter/EMTs per shift. The Marine Division is staffed by 1 Officer and 2 Firefighters per shift, who also cross-staff Engine 7 in the event of a structural fire in the city not requiring a Marine Unit.
Maine Medical Center a Level One Trauma Center is the largest hospital in Maine and is continuing to expand its campus and services. Mercy Hospital, a faith-based hospital, is the fourth-largest hospital in the state and began construction on its new campus along the Fore River in late 2006. The project is expected to be constructed in several phases, with completion of the first phase scheduled for 2008.
The formerly independent Brighton Medical Center (once known as the Osteopathic Hospital) is now owned by Maine Medical Center and is operated as a minor care center under the name Brighton First Care and New England Rehab. In 2010, Maine Medical Center's Hannaford Center for Safety, Innovation and Simulation opened at the Brighton campus. The former Portland General Hospital is now home to the Barron Center nursing facility.
Portland is accessible from I-95 (the Maine Turnpike), I-295, and US 1. Also, U.S. Route 302, a major travel route and scenic highway between Maine and Vermont, has its eastern terminus in Portland. State Routes include SR 9, SR 22, SR 25, SR 26, SR 77, and SR 100. SR 25 Business goes through southwestern Portland.
Amtrak's Downeaster service offers five daily trains connecting the city with eight towns and cities to the south, ending at Boston's North Station. To the north, three of the Downeasters go to Freeport and Brunswick.
Concord Coach Lines bus service connects Portland to 14 other communities in Maine as well as to Boston's South Station and Logan Airport. Both the Downeaster and the Concord Coach Lines can be found at the Portland Transportation Center on Thompsons Point Road, in the Libbytown neighborhood. Greyhound Lines on Saint John Street connects to 17 Maine communities and to more than 3,600 U.S. destinations.
A carsharing service provided by Uhaul Car Share is available.
The city bus service is provided by Metro Greater Portland Transit District.
Commercial air service is available at the Portland International Jetport, located in Stroudwater west of the city's downtown district. Several car rental agencies are located at the jetport. American, Southwest, JetBlue, Delta, and United serve the airport. Direct flights are available to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Atlanta, Newark, Washington, Charlotte, Chicago, and Detroit.
The Port of Portland is the second-largest cruise and passenger destination in the state (next to Bar Harbor), and is served by the Ocean Gateway International Marine Passenger Terminal. Ferry service is available year-round to many destinations in Casco Bay. From 2006 to 2009, Bay Ferries operated a high speed ferry called The Cat featuring a five-hour trip to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, for summer passengers and cars. Before that, the Scotia Prince Cruises trip took eleven hours. A proposal to replace the defunct Nova Scotia ferry services was rejected in 2013 by Nova Scotia's government. From May 15, 2014, until October 2015, the cruise ship ferry Nova Star made daily trips from Portland to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Due to poor passenger numbers and financial problems, Nova Scotia selected Bay Ferries, the prior operator of The Cat, to operate the service starting in 2016. Nova Scotia cited Bay Ferries' experience and industry relationships in making its decision. Nova Star officials pledged a smooth transition to the new operator. The Nova Star was later ordered seized by federal marshals for nonpayment of bills.
Bay Ferries announced on March 24, 2016, that they had chartered the former Hawaii Superferry boat HST-2 from the US Navy to use for the Portland-Yarmouth service, for a two-year period. Bay Ferries signed a 10-year deal with Nova Scotia to run the ferry route, which will take about five and a half hours to run in a crossing. They stated that the boat would be renamed The Cat and that service would begin around June 15, after the boat was refitted in a South Carolina shipyard. There is still a dispute as to whether the ferry will be permitted to carry trucks, something desired by Nova Scotia businesses but opposed by the City of Portland.
The Casco Bay Lines operates several passenger ferries with dozens of trips every day year-round to the major populated islands of Casco Bay. The service to Peaks Island also provides an auto ferry for most of its schedule.