In an article last month, we reported that Royal Caribbean is threatening Rockland Maine after the quaint town increased its port call fee to $6 per passenger.
Rockland is proposing a modest $2 port development fee and a dockage fee of $4 which reflect the actual costs to the city associated with accommodating large cruise ships.
Royal Caribbean wants the fee to stay at $1. The cruise line complains that increase was "excessive;" however, there is no port town or city anywhere in the world which has a fee of only $1. There are a few impoverished countries in the Caribbean and Central America, like Honduras, which collect a fee of only $4. But this is more of a reflection of the cruise line's historical exploitation of third world governments rather than a fair assessment of the actual impact of the cruise industry on the port's infrastructure.
Ports in the U.S. charge passenger fees ranging between $6 to $34.50 (Alaska).
Portland Maine, for example, charges $9 per passenger.
Royal Caribbean complains that it did not have adequate notice of the fee increase, but in truth it was notified earlier this year of the tax increase. It waited months before complaining and then sent an undated letter to the city manager of Rockland in June.
Good relationships are based on mutual respect. What is good for you is good for me. But when strong arm tactics dominate the debate, the result is one sided and unfair. A $1 fee is unreasonable. It is unfair. Royal Caribbean collects over $6 billion a year and pays no federal income tax by incorporating its business in Liberia and flagging its cruise ships in the Bahamas. The threats by the cruise line reflect an insight into Royal Caribbean's view of tiny Rockland. It is a signal of threats to come in the future.
Why would Rockland want to spend the money from its tax paying citizens to subsidize a non-tax paying billion dollar foreign corporation?
The cruise line has assembled a lobby group and has taken its scare tactics to Rockland's city council. Royal Caribbean is threatening to pull its huge cruise ship, Jewel of the Seas, from a stop in Rockland unless the $5 increase is repealed. But there is nowhere in the U.S. with a lower head tax than Rockland even at the proposed $6. Will Royal Caribbean really go to a port with a more expensive tax to prove a point to Rockland?
I don't think so. This is a cruise line which acts based on the bottom line dollar, not principles.
There will be a vote today in Rockland at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.
The decision that the people of Rockland will make today will be a reflection of the town's self respect. Will it stand up for a fair tax that reflects the reality of how a huge cruise ship like the Jewel of the Seas impacts its infrastructure? Or will Rockland let the cruise line treat it like a $1 store?
July 20, 2010 Update:
The Rockland City Council voted 3 -2 last night to provide a waiver to Royal Caribbean from the $6 fee. The fee will be just $1 this October when the Jewel of the Seas arrives. "Rockland Reverses Cruise Ship Fee Increase"
For a similar story, consider reading Carnival Drops Antigua Like A Hot Potato.
Rockland Maine harbor Peter Greenberg The Historic Inns of Rockand Maine