ROCKLAND — The Rockland City Council voted 3-2 Monday night to impose a limit on the number of large cruise ships that can come into the harbor.

The vote came at the end of a three-hour meeting that included two hours of public comment, almost exclusively on the cruise ship issue, in which the public was once again nearly evenly divided on the issue.

The vote to set a limit was 3-2 with Mayor Valli Geiger, and Councilors Adam Ackor and Amelia Magjik supporting the caps.

The council agreed to up the limit at the request of Ackor.

The order approved by the council sets no limits on cruise ships that carry up to 500 passengers, other than that there can be no more than two at a time.

Cruise ships with more than 500 passengers would not be allowed for 10 months of the year. The only time they can use the harbor would be September and October when there would be a limit of six a year.


The daily passenger maximum in September and October would be 3,000 with a monthly limit of 9,000 passengers.

The limits will be reviewed annually.

The Rockland City Council voted in March to create the Ad-Hoc Harbor Management Plan Committee after months of passionate debate about the benefits and detriments from large cruise ships visiting Rockland. The council directed the committee to develop a new harbor management plan. The committee held its first meeting July 25.

Geiger has said this committee is not likely to have recommendations for at least a year if not more. She has said the city’s waterfront facilities simply cannot accommodate the larger ships without restrictions.

Ackor said the compromised limits would put the issue to rest for a while.

Councilor Ed Glaser said he was disappointed the limits were placed as the committee looks to come up with a community consensus.


Glaser said the council was turning its back on the community’s maritime history.

More than 30 people spoke out at the meeting during the two-hour public comment session with the speakers nearly evenly divided between supporters and opponents of the limits.

Former Councilor Eric Hebert said he cannot understand how this has become an issue since Rockland gets so few large cruise ships each year. He said residents should be happy that thousands of people are not coming to Rockland with their cars, causing traffic and parking problems.

David Troup, the communications officer for the Farnsworth Art Museum, said the museum supports a balanced approach. He said the number of visits from large ships does not threaten the fabric of the community.

He questioned the repeated comparisons to Bar Harbor since Rockland is getting only two large cruise ships this year while Bar Harbor has 180 visits.

Troup said the 1,400 passengers who visit Rockland from a large cruise ship are far fewer than the North Atlantic Blues Festival, and the people do not cause parking or traffic problems.


David Wylie said the large cruise ships are a threat to the air and water of the community. He said the cruise ship passengers spend only a fraction of what land-based tourists spend.

“Rockland is not for sale. We will not become a cruise-ship sideshow,” he said.

Downtown business owners also were split on the issue. Ruth Starr, general manager of 250 Main motel, said she said was pro-tourism and pro-economic development, but that large cruise ships do not benefit a community.

A review of the berthing anchorage reservations on file at the Rockland Harbor Master’s office shows that there are two reservations for 2018 for cruise ships that carry 500 or more passengers.

The Crystal Symphony is scheduled to arrive in Rockland on Sept. 4, carrying 940 passengers.

The Queen Mary, which can carry 2,450 passengers, is scheduled to be in port on Sept. 25.

For 2019, only one reservation has been received for the larger cruise ships. The sole booking for next year is the Sapphire Princess which can carry 3,160 passengers.

Cruise ships that already have reservations are exempt from the caps.

Comments are no longer available on this story