Opinion: ‘Not an all or nothing proposition for our city’

Rockland needs to have conversations about cruise ship industry

Posted:  Sunday, November 12, 2017 - 7:30pm
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Let's first talk about what we do agree on about the cruise industry. First, boutique ships. It appears the community agrees the smaller ships are a good fit for Rockland. Visitors enjoy a leisurely two-day stay with easy on and off from the ships.

Second, absolutely some establishments see a financial benefit from the megaships. Who wouldn't enjoy a delicious lobster club from a Bobby Flay throw-down winner like Lynn Archer? Or some good old home cooking from Carla at the Rockland Cafe? Owners of Fiore, Nancy and Pat, successfully sell their imported olive oils and vinegars. Yes, some businesses see an economic gain. But not all businesses.

Let's move on to some well-documented concrete facts. This is not opinion. These are not anecdotal ramblings. All data are available for public scrutiny. A quick Google search will pull up thousands of nationally and internationally recognized organizations of current data.

Fact: Moratoriums

Southwest Harbor and Northeast Harbor have enacted moratoriums limiting cruise ships. Tremont is voting to decide if they will enact one. The document cites "considerable safety, environmental and land use concerns."

The Southwest Harbor moratorium states, "Whereas, the town needs a considerable amount of time to determine the implications of such activities and to develop reasonable regulations governing their location and operation."

The obvious question Rockland should be asking is why? What are the other harbors' concerns? What can we learn from Bar Harbor? Do we need to reinvent the wheel? Is it possible to glean from other harbors the pros and cons? What works. What doesn't?

Fact: Environmental

The environmental impacts associated with the cruise industry are real. The United States Department of Justice handed down the largest criminal penalty, a $40 million dollar fine against Princess Cruise Line Ltd., for illegal dumping of oil contaminated waste and falsifying records.

The use of a "magic pipe" was discovered by an engineer. The ships were using the "magic pipe" to illegally discharge oily water. They had been doing this since 2005. These ships did come into Maine waters.

There are other documented environmental concerns.

According to the EPA, each day an average cruise ship at sea will emit more sulfur dioxide than 13 million cars and more soot than 1 million cars. That is something to gnaw on.

Fact: Rockland's Infrastructure

Anyone who questions our lack of infrastructure needs to visit our Public Landing. It is crumbling. It is a safety concern. If the tide is low the ADA ramp is unacceptable. These safety concerns also impact all our major festivals. There is a cost to being a service center. There is a cost of being a tourist attraction. If you have 10,000 people cross over a threshold general repairs and upkeep are a given, as are bathrooms, trash, police, EMS, roads and traffic woes. Who should pay for the use of our facilities? How do we create revenue to offset these expenses? Increase taxes or increase fees? What are the answers?

Fact: lobster harvesting gear

Lobster gear is dragged and destroyed by cruise ships. A Harbor Management Commission member Richard Whitman, who is also a local fisherman born and raised in Rockland offers this: "They (cruise ships) dropped an anchor on three of mine (lobster traps) two years ago. LOL and it happened to my friend this year. They usually drag them off somewhere."

Richard further asserts: "The denial around trap loss is huge. NO-ONE assumes any responsibility, and we have a right under the laws of Maine to fish unencumbered. We have a right."

Richard states the base cost of gear lost is, 1 trap, rope, buoy, =$100.

All in all, from 2010-2017 the cruise industry continues to grow. More and more data are available about the pros and cons. How do we guarantee that the pros work for Rockland? How do we suss out the cons and avoid them?

Cruise ships do not need to be an all or nothing proposition for our city. What it needs to be is right for Rockland. Consistently there is a consensus that the boutique ships are a good fit for Rockland. How do we expand on this success? The need for regulation is a no brainer, as once Pandora's Box is open it is all but impossible to shut it. Let's think this through. It is clear that as a community we need to have discussions about the industry.

This is a critical time in Rockland's development. Knee jerk reactions are not helpful. These are historic times. Decisions will be far reaching. Let's take our time and get this right for all of Rockland.

Louise MacLellan-Ruf is a resident of Rockland