Pilots' Request to Accommodate Cruise Ships Stirs New Debate in Coastal Maine City

By Abbate, Lauren | Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), March 9, 2018 | Go to article overview

Pilots' Request to Accommodate Cruise Ships Stirs New Debate in Coastal Maine City


Abbate, Lauren, Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME)


The U.S. Coast Guard is reviewing a request from a local pilots association to establish a new federal anchorage in Rockland's outer harbor for the purpose of accommodating large cruise ships.

[This once low-key fishing city could become Maine's next big cruise ship destination]

The Penobscot Bay and River Pilots Association ― whose member captains pilot large foreign-flagged vessels into port ― says the requested anchorage in Broad Cove, located in Owls Head, would provide more safety for cruise ships entering the harbor.

But some in the coastal city worry that establishing the anchorage would attract more cruise ships to Rockland, spawning congestion problems similar to what Bar Harbor is experiencing.

[A new cruise ship controversy stirs Bar Harbor]

The Coast Guard is reviewing the request, according to Cmdr. Andrew Meyers. If the Coast Guard moves to accept the request as an anchorage, the proposal would then have to go through a rigorous review process, including environmental assessments and a public comment period.

"We haven't even decided whether or not to pursue a federal regulation that would establish this anchorage," Meyers said. "If we do decide to do that, there is a lengthy rulemaking process where we would have to go out for public comment in order to evaluate if we should move forward."

Local impacts

It is far from a done deal. But the federal anchorage request has reignited the simmering debate over whether Rockland wants to be a cruise ship destination.

The Rockland City Council is currently seeking to quantify the impacts that cruise ships have on the city, in terms of economic benefit but also on quality of life. The council is scheduled to vote Monday to request that the city's Harbor Management Commission make recommendations to the council by mid-June on how to handle the increase of large cruise ships coming into port.

The council is also seeking input from the Rockland Economic Development Advisory Committee. The city may also commission an independent study during the peak of the cruise ship season in Rockland this fall to determine the economic impacts.

What's a federal anchorage?

The Penobscot Bay and River Pilots Association submitted its request for a new federal anchorage in Broad Cove to the Coast Guard in July.

Federal anchorages, which are included on nautical charts and in the Federal Register, notify vessels of where the safest place to anchor in a port is located, as reviewed and designated by the Coast Guard.

Anchorages are established by the Coast Guard for a variety of reasons and can serve different purposes, Meyers said. Rockland currently has two smaller federal anchorages, however these anchorages are not ideal for larger vessels such as cruise ships.

The Penobscot Bay and River Pilots Association is responsible for guiding foreign-flagged vessels into ports in Penobscot Bay, Frenchman Bay as well as the Penobscot River. The pilots are tasked with then anchoring the ships in the safest place and position.

The association brought forth its request to help with voyage planning for cruise ships and to address safety issues pilots have encountered when the 900-foot plus cruise ships anchor at Rockland's existing anchorages.

While they can anchor some cruise ships in one of the smaller anchorages, it is only safe if the ships have dynamic positioning systems that prevent the chip from swinging around, Capt. David Gelinas, president of the Penobscot Bay and River Pilots Association, said.

Not all ships have this technology, or choose to employ it because of the amount of fuel required, Gelinas said. With limited depth available in the smaller anchorage, a "ship must be anchored very precisely and monitored very closely to stay within the anchorage circle," according to the request.

However, since large vessels are not mandated to anchor in an established federal anchorage, the limitations of Rockland's smaller anchorage have led pilots to anchor large cruise ships in several locations outside Rockland Harbor's limits, including in Broad Cove. …

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