Our Mission Statement

The ultimate goal of our project is to develop a publicly accessible profile of the positive and negative economic, social and environmental impacts of cruise ships on the city.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Close to Home Comparison

With the ever expanding cruise ship industry growing at an astonishing rate all across the world, it is not surprising that Venice is not the only community being affected by these floating cities. In fact, Bar Harbor, Maine, a rustic town in "Downeast" Maine, is a very comparable example. Located roughly halfway up the Maine coast, this small town of 4,800 has seen the number of cruise visits rise over three hundred and fifty percent since 2002. With 96 cruise ships bound for its docks (6 of which are bringing 2200+ passengers), Bar Harbor is certainly no stranger to big ships. However, the same as with Venice, the question still burning is whether or not these ships help or hurt the places they anchor.

With thousands of tourists eager to stretch their legs and open their wallets, the economic force of these large ships cannot be ignored. A study done by University of Maine students in 2005 showed that the average passenger off of a cruise ship spent $105.82 USD in Bar Harbor. By taking the number of passengers that also visited that year (nearly 130,000), this works out to 10 million USD. Tourist spending, however, is not the only source of income that these ships bring into the area. Charging fees at docking also brings in another estimated 2.5 million. These fees included $1,750 for anchorage, $4 per passenger, $150 per tour bus, and $40 per hour for a police detail. With all of these sources combined, cruise ships and their passengers net Bar Harbor ten percent of its yearly income.

Success, however, rarely ever comes without a price. The massive influx of passengers arriving by sea has also produced more than its fair share of problems. In 2005, Bar Harbor police reported 376 arrests involving cruise ship passengers, 91 of which were alcohol related. These numbers began to throw up red flags in the small 4,800 person community. Ensuing studies discovered just how much the spike in tourism was affecting crime. Cruise ship passengers testified to cruise-dedicated pimps and prostitutes ready to service male passengers fresh off the ship, a crime almost unheard of in the entire state, let alone in the rustic coastal town.

Crime, however, is not the only recognized problem faced by locals. Congestion in the city streets cause by surges of passengers has also been a key problem. As you might imagine, a town of 4,800 people is not entirely equipped to support foot traffic that can double the town’s population in a matter of hours. Foot traffic, however, is not the only traffic issue that faces Bar Harbor. Unlike Venice, Bar Harbor is also a big attraction for tourists driving their own cars. With only about five percent of the drivers on the road at any given time actually being from Bar Harbor, it is clear to see that Bar Harbor is a very active tourist location. Noise pollution has also become a problem for the town’s residents, especially those with waterfront properties. Multiple noise complaints have been formally filed against the ships for constantly running their engines and blasting loud music on their decks.

Trying to compensate for the problems, authorities in Bar Harbor have made changes that they feel would be more beneficial to the town. Firstly, a passenger limit has been placed on the cruise liner companies to try and control the number of people hitting the streets all at once. Replacing the previous two ship limit (thrown off by the introduction of "mega-ships" carrying 3000+ passengers) the new restriction would be set at 5500 passengers at a time during peak tourist season and 3500 otherwise. An increase in the fees paid by the ships to dock has also been proposed. This fee would not only affect the anchorage fee of the ship itself, but would show a rise in the per person fees and service costs.

Putting things in prospective, Bar Harbor is a great analogue to Venice when studying the effects of cruise ships. Firstly, it is a small controlled example with nearly one twelfth of the population of Venice. However, for being smaller, it has the same ratio of cruise ship passengers to local population as that of Venice (roughly 25:1). The problems and benefits faced in Bar Harbor can easily be echoed and mirrored in Venice. Likewise, proposed and implemented changes to how cruise ships dock and how much they pay could also be scaled to fit the larger city of Venice.

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