Selectmen postponed a decision July 27 on allowing American Cruise Lines to port one of its ships in mid-September. The board received a letter from the company’s Vice President Paul Taiclet July 24 inquiring about possible landings. Town Manager Julia Latter said the itinerary has the 173-passenger American Constitution leaving Boston on Sept. 10 and arriving in Boothbay Harbor Sept. 14. The ship will stay through the following day.
Taiclet spoke briefly via conference call on the company's efforts to make traveling safe; the ship will have nearly a third of its capacity with 65 passengers and approximately 40 crew members. Tenders will carry no more than 25 passengers, nearly half the capacity. Said Taiclet, “We've been working closely with all the communities that we visit throughout the country. We see this as a collaboration and a partnership where we can allow the communities to feel safe about our arrival.”
All passengers and crew are required to complete COVID-19 PCR tests before traveling and go through a screening test establishing travel history before boarding. The ship will have designated areas on board for consultation and care, use of an antigen testing machine and for quarantining.
Taiclet said the company has also opened lines of communication with Maine Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Nirav Shah and state epidemiologist Dr. Sirii Bennett. Both doctors provided guidance the company has accepted and implemented, said Taiclet.
“We only want to operate in Maine if we can do so safely … We want to do this the right way, we want to do this slowly … We certainly understand COVID and the spread of the virus is in charge, here, and if we can't do this well, do it safely, then we aren't going to come.”
Selectman Wendy Wolf expressed concern that under current rules, travelers must have a negative test in their home state before arriving in a number of states, including Massachusetts and Maine. She said that with the travel interval between a visitor's home state, Boston Harbor, where the ship disembarks from, and the various ports in Maine, there is a risk for infection.
The company sends all passengers a travel safe kit which includes masks, sanitizers, gloves and instructions, and passengers are screened before boarding the ship and every time they leave the ship, said Taiclet. “We are certainly relying on the passengers to travel safely, wear their masks, social distance, and practice all the items outlined by the CDC in order to mitigate the risk …”
American Cruise Lines needs notice by Sept. 3, 10 days before embarkation, Taiclet said. The board plans to decide Aug. 10. In the meantime, the town will ask other Maine ports – Bucksport, Rockland and Portland – about their decision-making processes.
Board chair Mike Tomko said the town will hold a presentation on the footbridge renovation project at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 14 in the Boothbay Region High School gymnasium. Tomko said former Lincoln County Regional Planning Commission Planner Bob Faunce would be willing to speak about sea level rise. The presentation will also cover railing concepts, landings, a possible kayak launch and bump-outs.
Selectmen granted Latter the power to oversee an agreement between the town and Boothbay Harbor Waterfront Preservation which restores to town records a boundary line between the property and the town-owned Fish Pier.
Latter said the town has received 10 hand sanitizers to install around town through a Keep Maine Healthy grant and will be receiving 19 signs on the usage of face masks and social distancing.
Latter reminded people to properly dispose of face masks, as public works has reported several instances of having to pick them up.