Rockland to vote next week on fee hike for cruise ships

By Stephen Betts | Oct 03, 2017
Photo by: Stephen Betts The Rockland City Council is scheduled to vote Wednesday, Oct. 11 on whether to increase the fees for large cruise ship vessels, such as the one pictured in the outer harbor.

Rockland — A year of sometimes stormy debates over whether to increase fees for large cruise ships is expected to be settled next week by the Rockland City Council.

The council, harbor management commission members, and other community members met Monday night, Oct. 2 and largely repeated debates held both two months ago and in November 2016.

On the agenda for the council's Oct. 11 meeting is a proposal to increase the fees for large cruise ships from $8 per passenger to $10 per passenger.

Councilor Ed Glaser said he would support an increase only if it does not take effect until 2020. He and Harbor Master Matthew Ripley said cruise ships schedule visits 18 months in advance and trips to Rockland have been arranged for 2018 and 2019.

Supporters said the additional revenue was needed to maintain waterfront facilities used by the thousands of passengers that come ashore during the visits of the cruise ships.

Former Mayor Louise MacLellan-Ruf said it makes sense that the more people who use harbor facilities means the more it is taxed. She said the $2 increase is less than what a passenger pays for a drink on the cruise ships.

A list of fees imposed by other ports showed that Charleston, S.C. charges $10,000 per ship.

Mayor Will Clayton urged caution in comparing Rockland to Charleston.

MacLellan-Ruf said she did not want anyone to put Rockland down.

"We're not Charleston, we're not Bar Harbor, we're not Portland," she said.

Clayton said he has lived in Rockland his entire life, and he was not putting Rockland down.

Glaser agreed with Clayton saying a fair comparison needs to include what services a community provides for the cruise ships. He said some ports are designed to allow large cruise ships to dock at the waterfront while in Rockland, the ships must moor out in the harbor and the company carries passengers by smaller tender boats.

Councilor Adam Ackor said the upgrades to city facilities, such as the bridge from Harbor Park to the floats, are needed and will have to be paid for by taxpayers or from cruise ship passengers.

He said Rockland was a destination for tourists and questioned whether a fee increase would have an impact on visits.

Tom Peaco, the executive director of the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce, urged caution on a fee increase, saying there is a tipping point.

Comments (6)
Posted by: Amy Files | Oct 04, 2017 16:05

Cruise ships dump a large amount of passengers -- all of whom add wear and tear to our infrastructure -- some of whom may stay in town and spend some money. Because of this we need to build and upkeep expensive infrastructure meant to handle the 100's to 1000's of passengers. And who pays for it? The already over-stretched Rockland taxpayer? Or the million dollar (or billion, depending on the size of the ship) cruise ship industry?

As with any town, when considering longterm economic development, we also need to consider diversity and balance. Putting all of your eggs in one basket is never a good thing -- and if we want to put all of ours into the tourism industry we can expect to see more seasonal businesses and low-paying jobs. We can expect to see less vibrant year-round working community and more businesses showing up on Main Street that close during the winter.

If you are wondering how a large amount of cruise ship passengers impacts a small town -- look to Bar Harbor -- ask yourself if that's what you want to see Rockland develop into --where many of the downtown businesses are not open year round, the housing stock is mostly vacation and summer homes, and year-round residents avoid downtown during the summer.

Right now, while Main Street is far from accessible to the average Rocklander, we can at least see businesses, restaurants and services that are open year round on our Main Street, providing year-round jobs — cruise ship passengers are not going to get their hair cut, shop for groceries or eat dinner on Main Street.

What is most concerning is, as it is my understanding, that our local fisherman have expressed concerns over the large mega ships and the damage they do to their gear. A recent op-ed written up in Bar Harbor also referenced damage that these ships can do to the mollusk and crustacean populations from the silt that they kick up.

What are we doing to protect our working waterfront? Why don't we take a pause and enact a moratorium as Southwest and Northeast Harbor recently did, so that we can conduct some real study in order to base our decisions on facts and science instead of guesswork and anecdotal evidence?

Instead of focusing on how much a cruise ship passenger may spend on one visit -- how about we compare that to the economic impact of losing year-round residents? ( In Bar Harbor, a 2010 study suggested that10 year-round Bar Harbor households would generate $167,700 in economic activity, and support two local jobs that provide $43,700 in wages and salaries.

And we can't simply compare dollars to dollars. All revenue is not the same -- tourism attracts more toursim -- and not all business is good business for the average Rocklander.

Posted by: David E Myslabodski | Oct 03, 2017 20:34

RE "I am still trying to understand why you would want to charge them anything to bring so much revenue to this area."


We know that FACTS do not matter . . .

1] Ships, especially the large ones, tax Rockland's infrastructure and this is the reason why towns have such fees.


2] The sale tax go to Augusta. Revenue sharing is just a memory. Towns collect property tax and fees.


3] One more example of what happens when city council works for downtown biz and against The People.


4] Seems that some people still believe in Santa and trickle-down-economics . . .

Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Oct 03, 2017 20:30

The city's comments are all speculations. Where is the hard data to support opinions?

Posted by: Dale E. Landrith Sr. | Oct 03, 2017 09:04

How about working hard to get more ships instead of looking for a tax increase which holds the potential to reduce participation.

Posted by: Jim Gamage | Oct 03, 2017 08:00

Instead of charging the ships, has anyone ever thought of the idea to charge the company that buses the passengers to Camden?  Inter cruises provides shore excursions.  How about a small fee per passenger charged to the shore excursion company?


Posted by: Charles E. St. Clair | Oct 03, 2017 07:52

Has any studies been done to find out how much money the average person spends while visiting the area from a cruise ship? I think if it is a significant amount, then the city/tax payers should spend whatever amount needed to accommodate these ships. I am still trying to understand why you would want to charge them anything to bring so much revenue to this area. Maybe we should we be paying them?


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