BAR HARBOR—The cruise ship industry has been dealt another blow, this time from the Canadian government, which has extended its ban of all cruise ships (with more than 100 passengers) in Canadian waters until Feb. 28, 2022.
This move essentially ends the season for the port of Bar Harbor due to a federal law known as the Passenger Services Vessel Act of 1886 that requires foreign–flagged ships traveling between U.S. destinations to stop at a foreign port.
These prohibitions also kept cruise ships from docking in town during the entire 2020 season.
The loss of ships will have a direct impact on the town’s 2022 budget, which was in the final stages of being drafted when the announcement was made.
At Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, where a public hearing was slated for the proposed 2022 budget, last minute changes were presented by Town Manager Cornell Knight prior to the hearing. The proposed changes to the cruise ship fund account included a decrease of anticipated revenue from $530,000 to $174,000; a drop in expenses from $105,000 to $49,000; a drop in the allocation to the general fund from $167,000 to $97,000 and a drop in capital transfer from $165,000 to $76,000.
The changes, said Knight, would result in an increase to the municipal tax rate of .7 percent. Prior to the changes, the town was set to have a nominal decrease to its tax rate of .1 percent.
For the 2021 season, as of press time, Bar Harbor officially has 120 ships remaining on the schedule which, according to Harbormaster Charlie Phippen, is unlikely to be a realistic number. Nineteen are American Cruise Line Independence cruises, which are the smallest of the ships and generally sail with around 100 passengers.
“I’ve received nothing to indicate that American Cruise lines have changed their planning,” he said at a meeting of the Cruise Ship Committee last week.
While the town works to adjust its budget, local shop owners are bracing for another challenging summer.
“What could be done to mitigate the loss of the business?” COO of Cottage Street’s Peruvian Link Scott Mitchell asked. The business urged the town to do all it can to get the ships back.
CEO of Acadia Corporation, David Woodside, said that the cancellation of cruise ships in September and October last year had a dramatic impact on his West Street shop. “For 2021, we anticipated the possibility that we would not have cruise ships this summer, but we did have some hope that in September and October that they might still be coming.” Woodside said he expects his sales will be better than last year’s, when he suffered a loss of roughly 30 percent, but he expressed concern that it would take some time before sales rebound to pre-pandemic levels.
“West Street relies on cruise ships,” said Diane Smith, the owner and operator of SeaDawg Gift Shop. She agrees that her best months for sales are in September and October, when the most cruise ships dock. “It’s going to be really hard because we rely on income in the fall,” she said.