BAR HARBOR — The Town Council officially signed off on an agreement between a town appointed working group and representatives of the cruise industry to modify current cruise ship visitation.
During a meeting on Tuesday, the council voted 5-2 (Minutolo, Friedmann) in favor of a three-page draft memorandum of agreement that implements monthly passenger caps and does not allow cruise ships during April or November.
“We have had a clear message from the public that they want cruise ships decreased,” said council member Erin Cough. “This is our best effort at doing something we think is reasonable.”
The council also agreed to host a Q&A at the next meeting on Oct. 3 to present the MOA and answer questions from the public about the new plan.
According to the agreement, the harbormaster will no longer accept additional ship reservations once a monthly cap is reached. Those monthly caps are tallied based on a ship’s lower berth capacity, or how many passengers the ship can carry in total.
Monthly caps are 30,000 for May and June; 40,000 for July and August; and 65,000 for September and October.
Daily passenger caps also still apply. No more than 3,800 persons may disembark into town per day for May, June, September and October with 3,500 for July and August. However, all U.S. flagged ships under a 200-lower-berth capacity threshold will be exempt from the daily max.
The town formed the Cruise Ship Working Group in February to hash out a compromise with industry representatives after growing frustrations came from town residents about the ballooning number of ships and passengers coming into town each year.
The new MOA is effective immediately and modifies cruise ship schedules that have yet to be booked for the 2023 and 2024 season.
Cruise ship industry representatives and Cruise Ship Working Group members will take part in an annual review process every November to assess the recently ended season. There they will make necessary adjustments to the daily and monthly passenger caps based on the town’s ability to manage current standards. Any changes will go into effect 18 months after a revised agreement is signed.
*Correction: This story was edited to correct the date of the next Bar Harbor Town Council meeting, which will take place on Monday, Oct. 3 due to a holiday.