Rockland group presents cruise ship moratorium petition

Posted:  Tuesday, May 8, 2018 - 3:00pm
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ROCKLAND – A Rockland group petitioning City Council for a moratorium on cruise ships unfurled a lengthy banner of names during the Wednesday, May 7, agenda-setting meeting.

At its inception, the petition quickly drew signatures of more than 100 Rockland residents before attracting support from another 1,000 people from around the country, according to Joan Wright.

“We request that you give us an answer tonight that you will create a well-reasoned moratorium to protect us and our beautiful town and harbor,” she told members of council. “[The petition] is helping people realize that a cruise ship can be great fun, but a cruise ship can be deadly to a small town or city.”

A moratorium doesn’t mean all or nothing, Louise MacLellan-Ruf, chairwoman of the Harbor Management Commission, said. The community and the Harbor Commission are looking for discussions that haven’t taken place yet, and ultimately, for balance, she said.

Other harbor towns have banned all cruise ships, MacLellan-Ruf said. The Rockland Harbor Management Commission is only asking for the ban of larger ships. The boutique ships such as the Fram, according to her, are a perfect fit.

“It’s about making the industry – what part of it works for Rockland – and keeping that and nurturing it,” she said.

“Every single time it looks like we’re going to make a little headway into reason and regulation, we’re pulled back,” she said. “The Commission had been asked to come up with reason and regulation in June. That was taken back. A brilliant idea, which is to rewrite the Harbor Management Plan, absolutely needs to happen. It’s 20 years in the making. And then we’ll address the cruise ships there. That delays again the discussion for two years.”

What does this area have to offer? asked Rockland native and restaurant owner Lynn Archer. Her answer: Destination, natural beauty, great accommodations, good restaurants, culture, and more.

Tourism, according to Archer, is essential. In her youth, the saying was ‘Camden by the Sea and Rockland by the Smell.’ The clothing and fish factories, and working waterfronts eventually disappeared, and with it, the economy.

“Does this area welcome tourism?” she asked.

In the last decade, she said, more integration of visitors has drawn more notice to the area, prompting many changes, and attracting higher levels of tourism.

“In the next few years, if we welcome change, we will see an uptick in our economy and our tourism profiles,” she said. “We will see an economic boom.”

Ruth Starr, a South Thomaston resident who runs 250 Main Hotel in Rockland, shared statistics during the meeting.

According to Starr: Cruise ship passengers spend one-fifth of what other tourists spend in a day. Mega-cruise ships are motels and restaurants on the water, therefore, they are direct competitors to local businesses. Cruise ships harm fishing gear. Passengers support mostly seasonal employment as most towns transform to trinket and T-shirt businesses.

David Wylie initiated the petition online at Change.org in February.

“This is a turning point for Rockland,” he said. “We must forego the lure of short-term profits and increased ticket sales and reject the false premises with promises from sweet-talking strangers. Take a stand to bolster the economy, preserve our culture, protect our environment.”

Archer quoted a tourism expert who said: “Through tourism, we can learn how people live in the world. Their values, conflicts, needs, and vices. At the same time, in the history of humanity, no other activity has influenced the world as intensely or as quickly as tourism.”

For good, as some people believe. And for bad, as some people believe.

Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce lists the following cruise ship arrivals in 2018.

  • April 18, 2018 - MS Fram of Hurtigruten Cruises, 373' length, accommodating up to 450 passengers.
  • May 26, 2018 - Hebridean Sky of Noble Caledonian Cruises, 296' length, accommodating up to 140 passengers.
  • September 4, 2018 - Crystal Symphony of Crystal Cruises, 781' length, accommodating up to 545 passengers.
  • September 25, 2018 - Queen Mary 2 of Cunard Line, 993' length, accommodating up to 2,450 passengers.
  • October 1, 2018 - Star Pride of Windstar Cruises, 443' length, accommodating up to 212 passengers.
  • October 11, 2018 -MS Fram of Hurtigruten Cruises, 373' length, accommodating up to 450 passengers.
  • October 17, 2018 - Pearl Mist of Pearl Seas Cruises, 290' length, accommodating up to 210 passengers.
  • October 19, 2018 - Serenade of the Seas of Royal Caribbean International, 962' length, accommodating up to 2,490 passengers. 
  • October 24, 2018 -Pearl Mist of Pearl Seas Cruises, 290' length, accommodating up to 210 passengers.

Sarah Thompson can be reached at news@penbaypilot.com