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Group Calls For Reforms In Cruise Ship Industry

Troy R. Bennett
A cruise ship dwarfs Spring Point Light as it makes its way into Portland Harbor in this Sept. 9, 2019, file photo.

As towns continue to debate the merits of cruise tourism, some activists in Maine are joining a global group looking to reform the cruise ship industry.

The Global Cruise Activist Network, or GCAN, launched in September. According to the network’s website it was started by two women, one from Alaska and one, Ruth Woodbury Starr, from Maine, who manages a hotel in Rockland.

At a virtual news conference on Wednesday, members of the group unveiled 13 broad principles they would like the industry to follow. including a commitment for cruise companies to refrain from interfering in local policy decisions, to stop contributing to climate change, to do better job at protecting passengers from crime and to improve working conditions for employees.

David Weeda of Bucksport, who has recently started to support the group’s efforts, says as Bucksport reimagines its post-mill economy, plans have been floated for making it a stop on the cruise ship circuit.

“The impact on the environment has to be very carefully scrutinized and the impact on cultural life of our communities. And right now we’re dealing with the global pandemic and COVID and I think there has to be some great care when we start opening up our communities to large numbers of tourists.”

Adrienne Caldwell of Bucksport says she has become alarmed at the prospect of big ships visiting the Penobscot River estuary, where she says water quality is already a concern, after years of mill operation plus a new fish farm in the works.

“Where are they going to release their waste? I just don’t see how it could be done,” she says.

Cruise ships have generated controversy in many coastal communities. Advocates say the industry brings needed visitor dollars to shore and island economies, and the mode of travel helps cut down on road congestion in places that become choked with cars in the summer, such as Bar Harbor.