November 20, 2017

Rockland grapples with impact of increasing cruise ship traffic

Rockland, which has seen a steady increase in numbers of cruise ships in recent years, is beginning to grapple with related infrastructure issues for a waterfront that wasn't designed to handle hundreds of people disembarking on the city's narrow pier.

The Bangor Daily News reported that Rockland's cruise ship visitations has increased from four in 2016 to six in 2017 and that nine ships are already scheduled for 2018.

"We have to address the issues of infrastructure and how the city intends to handle these large numbers of folks arriving on the harborside," City Councilor Adam Ackor told the newspaper.

Last season's 9,728 cruise ship passengers were a significant economic boon to downtown restaurants and shops, which reported double-digit increases on days cruise ships had stopped in Rockland, Tom Peaco, executive director of the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce, told the BDN. Almost one-third of the passengers took "shore excursion" via bus to Camden or the nearby Owls Head Transportation Museum.

Infrastructure improvements that are needed to accommodate the increasing cruise ship traffic include widening the city's pier, Harbormaster Matt Ripley told the newspaper.

"We're at a very historic time in Rockland with this industry," Ripley said.

A portion of the passenger fee collected by the city — which is increasing from $8 per passenger to $10 per passenger starting in 2018 (with cruise ships that had already contracted for the 2018 season being exempt from the higher rate) — is placed in a reserve account to help pay for the infrastructure improvements that will be needed on the waterfront.

Rockland's cruise ship numbers remain small compare with other Maine ports. Bar Harbor is Maine's busiest cruise port, with 163 cruise ship visits in 2017, followed by Portland with 90, then Camden and Boothbay Harbor with 31 apiece. On Mount Desert Island, both Southwest Harbor and Northeast Harbor have imposed temporary bans on cruise ships.


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