Cruise ship schedule for 2021 not under local control

SOMESVILLE, Jan. 1, 2021 – Canada will have more to say about whether Bar Harbor gets cruise ship visits in 2021 than local authorities.

That is because of a little known law which requires ships with foreign flags to leave the U.S. for at least one night before returning. Ships may not spend consecutive nights in two domestic ports.

The Jones Act, which specifies that ships carrying cargo between two American ports must: 1) be built in the United States, 2) be 75 percent owned by U.S. citizens, 3) be 75 percent manned by a U.S. citizen crew, and 4) fly the U.S. flag. Since virtually all cruise ships are foreign flagged, the issue of Bar Harbor’s 2021 schedule may be decided by Canada, which has a cruise ship ban until March 1. It is likely to extend that until covid comes under control.

The big season is September and October when both Quebec City and Bar Harbor enjoy an extra economic burst as Acadia National Park visits wane. The Jones Act was enacted in 1886 to protect U.S. ship builders and shipping industry.

Meanwhile, Jeff Dobbs, chair of the Bar Harbor Town Council, wrote in an email that he favors moderating the cruise ship activity, although he would not have voted for the June 2021 town meeting to place a proposed limit on the number of cruise ships. Dobbs had an ailment and could not attend the town council meeting in December when the motion carried 4-2. “This is not the way to do it,” he wrote. The motion called for a survey of residents, followed by a public hearing, before the June vote.

Like all the council members, Dobbs said he received a “barrage of emails that preceded the last meeting … it is fairly obvious that we as a town need to ameliorate the cruise ship situation. The emails ranged from one extreme to another, with some that were in the middle too. The bottom line is to come up with a plan that has something in it for all.

“Maybe moving tour operations to the Ferry Terminal to alleviate congestion on the pier. Only passengers taking local tours and shopping being taken directly to Harborside Marina and 1 West Street . Returning passengers from tours being dropped off in town to shop or return to their ships. Requiring large cruise ships to anchor in anchorage B & C on the far side of Bar Island and Sheep Porcupine Island to reduce the visual and noise pollution, some call it, of Frenchman Bay from Agamont Park, the Shore Path etc. Also having cruise ship free days is another idea.”

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