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June 21, 2018

10 Maine communities evaluating impact of cruise ship traffic

Photo / CruiseMapper.com
Photo / CruiseMapper.com
An aerial view of Rockland's port, which can dock ships sized up to 215 feet in length. The Maine Office of Tourism anticipates another good year for the tourism industry in Maine, citing national reports of optimism for domestic leisure travel in the United States.

CruiseMaine, an organization created in 2002 to promote "sustainable cruise ship tourism," plans to work with 10 Maine communities to evaluate the potential of growing cruise ship traffic and evaluating its possible impact on destination communities.

The Working Waterfront reported the communities under evaluation are now seeing or hope to see cruise ship traffic — Eastport, Bar Harbor, Castine, Bucksport, Searsport, Belfast, Camden and Rockland, Boothbay Harbor, Bath and Portland.

CruiseMaine Director Sarah Flink told the Island Institute's newspaper that although interest in growing the cruise ship sector as part of the tourism economy is strong among most municipalities, no community wants to "open the flood gates." Instead, they want marketing and planning "done thoughtfully, sustainably."

Flink said CruiseMaine is undertaking a listening tour of towns to gauge community sentiment about cruise ships in general, infrastructure capacity for vehicle traffic and parking, and shore excursion potential.

According to its website, Cruise Maine started as an effort to promote Maine as a whole to the cruise ship industry. The organization is run by the Maine Office of Tourism, Maine Port Authority and Patrick Arnold of Soli DG Inc. CruiseMaine is a coalition of official member ports and a number of coastal communities and business organizations.

CruiseMaine's plan comes during a wave of debate over the growth of the cruise ship industry in Maine. Earlier this year, The Rockland City Council was considering limits on cruise ships, after the council received a petition signed by about 100 Rockland residents that asked the city to place a moratorium on allowing cruise ships with more than 250 passengers from coming into port, the Bangor Daily News reported at the time.

Maine's busiest port, Bar Harbor, had 180 ship visits scheduled for this year, 14 more than 2017 — viewed by many as an economic driver but concerning many, as well, due to traffic congestion. And in 2017, Mount Desert Island's "quiet side" town of Southwest Harbor approved a 180-day moratorium on cruise ship activity.

Portland's megaberth Ocean Gateway has been attracting bigger cruise ships than ever since the berth's completion in 2011.

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