(11:20 a.m. EDT) -- The Rockland City Council has voted 3 to 2 to limit the number of large cruise ships that can sail into the harbor in Rockland, Maine. Large cruise ships are being defined as vessels carrying more than 500 passengers.
Large cruise ships will be allowed to call for only two months out of the year -- September and October -- with a cap of six large ships per year. There are no limits on ships that carry less than 500 passengers, except that only two can be docked at one time.
The daily passenger maximum in September and October would be 3,000 passengers, with a monthly limit of 9,000 passengers. The limits will be reviewed every year.
Residents and officials are split on the issue, according to a story in the Courier-Gazette, citing that more than 30 people spoke out at the August 13 meeting during its two-hour public comment session with "speakers nearly evenly divided between supporters and opponents of the limits."
Concerns voiced against big cruise ships included effects on local air and water quality, as well as the economic contributions of cruise passengers versus other tourists to Rockland.
Others, like Councilor Ed Glaser, believe the council is "turning its back on the community's maritime history," according to the Courier-Gazette story.
Comparisons were made, in the session, to the highly-trafficked Maine community of Bar Harbor. Though Bar Harbor has about 180 cruise ship visits scheduled for 2018, and Rockland will receive only two large ships: Crystal Symphony (940 passengers) on September 4, and Queen Mary 2 (2,450 passengers) scheduled for September 25.
Cruise ships that already have reservations to dock in Rockland are exempt from the new limits.
For 2019, the only reservation for a large cruise ship is from Sapphire Princess, with 3,160 passengers.
Rockland isn't the first Maine cruise port to voice concerns over the influx of cruise passengers. However, ports in Maine remain as popular as ever; Portland won a top spot for the U.S./Canada region in this year's Cruise Critic Destinations Awards.
--Brittany Chrusciel, Associate Editor