Rockland, cruise ship industry reps meet to calm waters

By Stephen Betts | Jun 27, 2018
Photo by: Stephen Betts City leaders and cruise ship industry representatives meet Wednesday morning, June 27.

Rockland — City officials and representatives of the cruise ship industry met Wednesday morning, June 27, to discuss the community's concerns.

Amy Powers, a consultant, and Mike McGarry, senior vice president for government relations and public affairs for trade industry group Cruise Lines International, met at the harbormaster's building. City Councilors Lisa Westkaemper and Ed Glaser, City Manager Tom Luttrell, Harbor Management Commission members, and other city leaders were in attendance.

"We want a clear and open dialogue," Powers said.

She asked city officials to provide the industry with its concerns and any areas where improvements are needed.

Harbor Management Commission Chair Louise MacLellan-Ruf said lobstermen are concerned about damage to their gear from cruise ships and other vessels, such as barges, buses idling for long periods, and more particularly, the lack of infrastructure at the harbor.

"Basically, we have thousands of people walking over planks and floats," MacLellan-Ruf said.

She said at low tide there is a problem for passengers who use walkers and canes trying to get onto shore.

Harbormaster Matt Ripley also listed concerns he had heard. Those included air and water pollution, the lack of public bathrooms at the harbor, clogging up Main Street, damage to lobster gear and the cruise ships blocking harbor views from Owls Head.

McGarry said cruise ships have advanced environmental systems and offered to have a specialist on environmental issues meet with community leaders. He said there are many misperceptions about cruise ships.

He also said he would bring the issue of insufficient number of public bathrooms at Harbor Park up to the attention of the cruise companies.

McGarry said he is visiting Maine for the first time to meet with community representatives along the coast.

"We feel strongly that we should be partners with destination communities to iron out any concerns," he said.

Ripley said he thought last season -- when six large cruise ships visited Rockland -- things went relatively smoothly. He said the one exception was that one cruise ship had insufficient tender boats and that created long lines of passengers waiting onshore on a hot day.

The harbormaster said the city would not be able handle two cruise ships at a time.

Tom Peaco, executive director of the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce, said that after that incident, Royal Caribbean had three other visits to Rockland and had corrected that problem with more tenders and water stations on shore.

"They got the message and made the adjustments," Peaco said.

Rockland Deputy Police Chief Christopher Young said the police department had had no issues when the cruise ships come into port. He said there had been no increase in crime and that the number of people is not more than on a summer Saturday or during summer festivals.

The Rockland City Council agreed in March to create the Ad Hoc Harbor Management Committee to look at a variety of issues, including whether there should be limits or prohibitions on large cruise ships.

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