(Photo by Wendell Greer)
(Photo by Wendell Greer)
Rockland City Council will consider a temporary cap on the number of large cruise ships coming into Rockland Harbor at its next meeting, on Monday, August 13.

The ordinance, sponsored by Mayor Valli Geiger, proposes to set a daily cap of 1,000 passengers based on the berth capacity of the ship from January through August and November to December. During September and October, known as the “shoulder season,” it would set a daily passenger cap of 2,500 passengers and a monthly limit of 9,000 passengers.

At a council meeting on Monday, Geiger said she would like the limits to be in effect through 2023 or until the the council votes on a harbor management plan. A newly assembled ad hoc harbor management plan committee has been tasked with developing recommendations for the regulation of cruise ships.

The capping proposal would not affect any ships currently scheduled for this fall or any ships that have signed contracts before August 13. Four cruise ships are scheduled to arrive this fall, including three with just under 2,500 passengers. Geiger said she had consulted with the Harbor Management Commission, Comprehensive Planning Commission and the economic development committee (REDAC) in crafting the ordinance.

Harbor Management Commission Chair Louise MacLellan-Ruf said that the commission found it “heartening” that the council is considering limiting cruise ships, but that it preferred to cap the number of passengers at 500 per day rather than 1,000.

Geiger said she would be willing to consider a 500-passenger cap as the arrival of the Draken Viking ship in Rockland recently showed that the city doesn’t have enough bathrooms and the harbor infrastructure is not equipped to handle 1,600 visitors for one ship.

Cruise Line International Association spokeswoman Catharine Montgomery said the organization, which represents large cruise lines, is still studying the proposal and has no comment at this time.

Professor Ross A. Klein of Memorial University, who runs the site cruisejunkie.com and has been following the debate in Rockland, wrote in an email that the ordinance still lacks the authority to prevent cruise ships from illegally discharging waste, as some have done in the past.

“In light of the history of offences (over $100 million in environmental fines) the town needs to take seriously protection of its waters,” he wrote. “Without monitoring the town cannot enforce anything it claims it is requiring, and without enforcement the town is saying they trust the cruise lines to do as they claim they do (even if recent history contradicts the cruise industry’s claim).”