BAR HARBOR — Town officials are set to meet with representatives from the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), a cruise industry advocacy group, next week.
Town Manager Cornell Knight, Town Council Chair Gary Friedman, and Councilor Stephen Coston will represent the town at the Oct. 18 meeting. Coston serves as the town council representative on the town’s cruise ship committee.
As the town discusses possible changes to cruise ship passenger fees, waterfront congestion and other issues, town councilors said they welcome the chance to include the cruise ship industry into the discussion.
The town council is currently considering raising the Port Development fees, commonly referred to as cruise ship fees, from $2.00 per passenger to $3.00 per passenger to help fund future projects that could benefit cruise ship passengers as well as residents. In April, the town council moved to ask the Cruise Ship Committee to review the proposed increase and report back with a recommendation.
At an Aug. 23 meeting, the cruise ship committee voted not to recommend any change to cruise ship fees.
“We found that we are in line with any other ports that are comparable in the Northeast,” Eben Salvatore, who chairs the committee, said at the Oct. 2 town council meeting. “Because of that, we decided not to increase [the fee] for the sole purpose of increasing the fee.”
Councilor Matthew Hochman said he had attended the Aug. 23 committee meeting and heard the discussion.
“I would have preferred to see a wider discussion of the uses and justifications for an increase,” he said. “While he said he was also not in favor of “arbitrary” fee increases, “there are projects that we are trying to get done that we don’t have funding for … that have a direct impact on the quality of experience for both our residents and for cruise ship passengers.”
Councilor Paul Paradis expressed support for the committee decision, saying he would worry about “pushback from the industry” if fees are raised.
Friedman said he wanted to explore whether the cruise ship industry could help the town either by paying increased fees or funding studies for the town. He intends to bring this up at the Oct. 18 meeting with CLIA.
“We could throw into the mix for consideration a study to reduce traffic, and ask CLIA to pay for that study,” he said.
He also mentioned a possible study of renovations of the town pier to accommodate the smaller buses proposed in Acadia National Park’s draft transportation plan.
Bar Harbor is busy on cruise ship days. Daily passenger caps are 3,500 in the summer and 5,500 in the spring and fall.
The town has two anchorages, according to Harbormaster Charlie Phippen.
Anchorage A is between the breakwater and the town pier. Anchorage B is off the north shore of Bar Island. This is the larger anchorage, and can accommodate two ships.
In addition to three ships anchoring in the harbor, a small ship can tie up on the dock, said Phippen, but this happens rarely. “Only Blount cruise ships can tie up on the dock,” he said. “They only have 100 passengers, and don’t count toward the cruise ship limit.”
This is because the harbormaster has leeway to exceed the daily limit by up to 200.