Chamber board urges Rockland to sink cruise ship fee hike

By Stephen Betts | Aug 11, 2017
Photo by: Ed Porter, VStv The MS Regatta was in Rockland Harbor last fall carrying 684 passengers and 400 crew.

Rockland — The Board of the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce has gone public with its opposition to a proposed 25 percent hike in fees for cruise ships.

The Rockland City Council is scheduled Monday evening, Aug. 14,  to consider a proposal that would increase the cost from $8 per passenger to $10, starting in 2018.

The Harbor Management Commission voted to increase the fee. Half the fee ($4 now, but proposed to increase to $5 per passenger) is classified as an anchorage fee, which would be if the cruise ship moored in Rockland harbor. The remaining fee is designated as a tendering fee and would be applied if the smaller boats that bring the passengers in to shore use the public landing. That fee is also proposed to increase from $4 to $5 per passenger.

The commission said the money is needed to generate income for a match to a grant the city hopes to receive to redevelop Harbor Park.

The chamber, however, contends that additional income from the harbor can be generated by increasing the number of cruise ships, rather than increasing the fees, which could reduce the number of ships that stop in Rockland.

"Our concern is that increasing fees will lead to decreasing interest in future visits to Rockland over time, so we may not know the full effect of this change for some time. We believe that equating increasing fees with a sustainable increase in revenue is not a safe assumption," an Aug. 9 letter from Chamber Executive Director Thomas Peaco stated.

The city expects close to 40 port calls, with more than 10,000 passengers this year, Peaco said.

Instead of a fee increase, Peaco said, an additional two visits by a cruise ship carrying 2,400 passengers would generate more income than the proposed fee hike.

The issue was debated by the council in November when similar arguments were offered but no action was taken.

The city received slightly more than $41,000 in cruise ship fees in 2015, and nearly $54,000 in 2016.

Comments (14)
Posted by: Amy Files | Aug 14, 2017 13:03

I am very disappointed that this article neglects to point out that Rockland's fees are still less than neighboring harbors and that the City has to invest in costly harbor infrastructure in order to accommodate the passengers ( which fall on the shoulders of taxpayers). I will also point out that the Chamber does not poll its members for their point of view and so the board is very literally speaking only for the board members.

Posted by: Sandra Schramm | Aug 14, 2017 10:02

Lynne A Barnard you nailed it. Penobscot Bay Chamber of Commerces serves an area, not just Rockland. Rockland alone bears the cost of the harbor and all things related to hosting cruise ships. When the mega ships arrive people are taken to multiple locations, not just Rockland. We have a lovely port, very expensive to maintain and staff. Harbor dredging, staffing, staff benefits and cost of insurance for the area, maintaining the docks and floats and the list goes on.  A small Town such as Rockland should not be compared to Portland where they have multiple large entities making use of the facility to offset cost. They also have a much larger tax paying population and industry/business. And if you read this article clearly, the rates do not go into effect until 2019.  Seems that would be seen as covering the cost of inflation. Rockland is a travel "hot spot", we are too high profile in the travel industry to be missed.  The Harbor Commission and the Harbor Master have surely run the numbers. The harbor was bursting with activity this past weekend, looking quite stellar. To keep it that way, we must meet our budget. You may recall that former Harbor Master, now Councilman, Ed Glaser was taken to task for not bringing in enough revenue from the harbor operation.  It would be valuable to hear from the Harbor Master, Harbor Commission and perhaps the Pen Bay Pilot Assn tonight at the Council meeting as there will be discussion.  The members of the Harbor Commission have long advocated for higher fees.

Posted by: Lynne A Barnard | Aug 13, 2017 08:00

Consider this...Cruise ships entering our harbor are running over our lobster buoys; once anchored, they are dumping waste and bilge water into our harbor and bringing their garbage and trash ashore; passengers board buses and are transported to Camden or they go to the Farnsworth and CMCA; passengers on foot seldom eat in our restaurants as their meals are provided on board the ship; passengers on foot buy only small souvenir items that can be packed in their luggage.  Whether directly or indirectly, it is the TAX PAYING residents of Rockland who are financing the costs of waste and garbage disposal, costs to maintain the docking area for their launches at the PUBLIC LANDING, and the costs of environmental clean-up.  A $10.00/passenger fee seems too little.

Posted by: Dale E. Landrith Sr. | Aug 13, 2017 07:16

Businesses have learned over time that higher prices mean fewer transactions.  Higher taxes (fees) means less commerce.

Posted by: Melinda Lindsey | Aug 12, 2017 11:13

Why is Rockland so opposed to anything that might bring revenue to the city merchants and those of surrounding towns??  To see why your taxes are so high you might want to check how many non profits there are in the city. I agree with the Chamber of Commerce

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Aug 12, 2017 10:48

I realise that businesses pay taxes and add to the economy but I fail to see where somebody coming here to shop or eat has lowered my taxes. We service a population of twenty-five thousand during the day and the majority of these people contribute nothing to the tax base. One can always find a place to park but it may not be on Main Street and heaven forbid somebody may have to walk a few steps.

Posted by: WILL MOSS | Aug 12, 2017 10:26

I had the same question as Francis Mazzeo -- what is the standard in other ports of call?


Posted by: judith wenzel andersen | Aug 12, 2017 10:22

Try a visit to Bar Harbor when all the cruise boats are in. We have stopped going there in the summer.

Posted by: Paul Smith | Aug 12, 2017 09:19

What about phasing in the increase over two or three years?  The town also needs to consider more public parking.  I was in Rockland within the past week, midday on a weekday, and there was NOTHING open in the downtown area.  I drove around 20 minutes looking, gave up and left.  Sarah Smith


Posted by: Kathryn Fogg | Aug 12, 2017 02:00

It seems if the increase is too much, the companies will just pass it on to passengers.  How many harbors allow passengers the deep water to just get off and walk down Main St full of shops and restaurants?  While it is great that the merchants have the cash registers ringing, it is very difficult for residents to meet the ever increasing costs of the property tax.  Then there are those who are cautious about the long term effects  of increasing  cruise ships coming to Rockland.  If they want to play, let them pay.  Couples go out and pay $80 for a meal; let them pay $2 more per passenger to dock in Rockland.

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Aug 11, 2017 23:22

Afraid I agree with the chamber on this one.  Yes we need the money.  Bringing more visitors who eat at restaurants and shop in our stores benefits everyone.  Raising fees only leeds to fewer boats and less visitors.  Let's  not kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

Posted by: Dale Hayward | Aug 11, 2017 19:33

If you think Rockland badly needs revenue just wait for the next budget. Salaries and benefits for city employees is going crazy and there is no restraint.

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Aug 11, 2017 15:51

Has anyone checked with other ports of call to see what their fees might be?

Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Aug 11, 2017 15:18

Rockland badly needs revenue. This is a SMALL raise that will not impact cruises. The Chamber of Commerce needs to understand the meaning of "commerce"...

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