Anglers fish along the eastern side of the city's breakwater pier in this August 2019 file photo. The city's port authority is in talks with Oceania Cruises to have its 785-foot ship Riviera, which would have no passengers and only a minimal crew, tie up to the pier this summer while the global cruise industry is shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit: Bill Trotter | BDN

A 785-foot cruise ship with a crew but no passengers is expected to arrive Sunday in Eastport for “an extended period” as the idled ship requires docking space while its industry is shut down.

The ship Riviera will tie up to the city’s breakwater pier, with restrictions against the crew from getting off the ship, while the cruise industry is shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic. The local port authority has been considering hosting the idle ship, and charging it to tie up to the pier, since at least April.

With the industry shut down by federal officials to fight the spread of the disease, there is not enough docking space in the industry’s home ports to store all of the ships, Chris Gardner, the port authority’s executive director, has said. By allowing the ship to tie up in Eastport, and making sure none of the ship’s crew has contact with local residents, the city can earn some needed revenue and ensure that local residents are not exposed to COVID-19, he has said.

“The port is ready to assist the maritime community during this time, and is honored to be capable of providing much-needed relief to the captain and crew as they wait for further instruction from the cruise line,” Gardner said Friday in a statement about the ship’s pending arrival.

Gardner said previously that the port authority typically charges visiting vessels $2 per foot per day to tie up to the pier, and that it expects the ship’s operator, Oceania Cruises, to pay the same rate. At 785 feet, that would translate to a daily payment of $1,570 from the Riviera.

All the money paid by the cruise company would go toward the debt service for rebuilding the pier, which partially collapsed in 2014, according to Gardner.

Gardner also has said that, while negotiating with the cruise line, local officials have contacted local vendors in an effort to find companies that can keep the ship’s crew supplied while it is in port.

According to Gardner and Amy Powers, a cruise industry consultant who has been working with Easport to develop an agreement with the cruise line, Riviera’s crew will comply with Gov. Janet Mills’ order to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. The crew also will be issued a stay-on-board order from U.S. Customs & Border Protection for the duration of their stay.

According to Marinetraffic.com, a website that tracks satellite position information on commercial vessels, the Riviera was headed north Friday morning off Cape Hatteras in North Carolina.

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Bill Trotter

Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....