BAR HARBOR — The fees charged to small cruise ships docking at town floats will go up 1.7 percent effective July 1, following a unanimous Town Council vote Tuesday. Town Manager Cornell Knight said the bump from $1,000 to $1,017 will raise about $330 per year.
The council also asked the Cruise Ship Committee to review a proposal for a 50 percent increase to the cruise ship port development fee and to prepare an analysis of fees charged to cruise ships by other ports.
All three actions were discussed at the council’s joint meeting with the Warrant Committee on March 27.
Councilor Stephen Coston said he was concerned about raising the fee and blindsiding those who already have booked.
“From a principled point of view, it’s about telling somebody it costs one thing and now it costs this,” Coston said.
Councilor Judie Noonan said the council had to “draw the line in the sand” for fees.
“There’s never going to be a convenient time to raise it,” Noonan said. “I don’t think anyone is going to decide not to come to Bar Harbor over $17.”
Resident Bob Collier said the ships that use the town floats can be up to 250 feet long and can cause damage to the 96-foot dock.
“They have no common sense,” Collier said. “You can go down there on a calm day and they have the winches tightened up so tight that they are picking … the float right out of the water.”
Collier added that the floats should be bolstered by town funds, referencing the 6.5 percent proposed tax increase this year, which is much higher than the 1.7 percent increase to fees.
The docking fee change is in line with changes made earlier this year. Councilors bumped port fees for ships that anchor, rather than tie up to a pier, by 1.7 percent during a budget workshop on Jan. 18, raising them to a total of $4.37 per passenger.
The port fees include a passenger service fee and port development fee.
On Tuesday, councilors discussed raising the port development fee portion from $2 to $3 per passenger, which would bring the total port fees to $5.37.
“Part of the Cruise Ship Committee’s enabling ordinance is to review these fees,” Councilor Paul Paradis said. “The last year we’ve sort of been waiting for a business plan, then the plan changed scope, and that’s sort of the delay in this. The last time the committee did look at it, [our fees] were in line” with comparable port towns.
Resident Joe Minutolo said Rockland charges $10 per passenger for visiting ships and Bar Harbor takes in more passengers and offers more amenities.
Paradis said Wednesday morning that Rockland’s fee encompasses all services, like tendering and a secure location for tender boats.
Bar Harbor’s port fees do not include those services, he said, so ships pay a fee to Ocean Properties LTD for tendering and use of their docks.