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Despite the global halt of all cruise ship operations, a near-empty 785-foot cruise ship could be on its way to Maine to tether at a large breakwater pier in Eastport for much of the summer.
There have not been any passengers on board the ship, Oceania Cruises’ Riviera, for more than a month. After being moved to Eastport the ship’s crew would be reduced to “maintain basic ship operations only,” according to the city’s port authority, which posted information about the potential cruise ship presence on its Facebook page.
“There are currently zero doctumented cases of COVID-19 on the ship,” the port authority said.
The ship’s crew would have to remain on board the vessel while it is docked at the breakwater pier, which was recently rebuilt after partially collapsing in 2014.
A site that tracks international marine traffic indicated that Riviera was offshore, just north of Miami on Friday.
The company is in negotiations with Eastport Port Authority to keep the vessel idled at the city’s downtown pier while the industry waits for the COVID-19 pandemic to recede so it can resume with voyages.
Chris Gardner, executive director of the port authority, said Friday that the ship would only come to Eastport if the cruise company can get the proper approvals from Gov. Janet Mills’ office, the U.S. Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection. He said the ship and its crew would have to abide by rules set in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention while it is in Eastport.
“The cruise industry is designed to have all the ships at sea,” Gardner said, adding that there simply aren’t enough large piers in the industry’s home ports to tie up all the ships at once. “They are looking for a place to park all their vessels.”
Gardner said Oceania Cruises would pay a daily docking fee to the port authority, which he expects would be in line with what it usually charges, though the exact amount to be paid is part of the discussions. The port authority normally charges $2 per foot per day which, at 785 feet, would translate to a daily payment of $1,570 from the Riviera.
“That’s the formula we’re working with,” Gardner said.
All the money paid by the cruise company would go toward the debt service from rebuilding the pier five years ago, he added.
“We’re facing revenue slowdowns, just like any other business in the state of Maine,” Gardner said of the port authority, which also operates a deepwater marine shipping facility off County Road in Eastport.
Gardner said the port authority is working to make arrangements with the cruise company to ensure that “local vendors are utilized to keep the ship provisioned and serviced” while it is in port.
Other portions of the pier would remain available for use by local fishermen and the public while the ship is tied up, and the ship can be moved temporarily if the east face of the pier is needed for another purpose.
Watch: Janet Mills outlines her plan to reopen