Monterey city officials are sending a message loud and clear to cruise companies: Stay away.
The City Council of Monterey voted this month to terminate passenger landing services for cruise lines, the most severe action the city can take to discourage cruise ships from coming to town.
“Folks don’t want to come here and visit Monterey and take a picture with a cruise ship in the bay,” said Mayor Tyller Williamson, according to the Monterey Herald. “We want to be able to enjoy the natural environment. This is about our beautiful community, our natural environment… this is about taking care of this little piece of the planet that we have.”
The council took action on the advice of City Manager Hans Uslar, who has concerns about the cruise industry mixing with the sensitive ecosystem of Monterey Bay.
“What price are we as a community willing to pay for potential environmental disaster caused by human error?” Uslar asked. “Mechanical failure? Computer glitches? What type of spill is a good one? Can we afford gallons of diesel accidentally [spilling] into Monterey Bay? At what cost do we think this is OK?”
Youth Group Support
Uslar had strong support from Protect Monterey Bay, a youth group which has fought long and hard for a cruise ship ban.
“The battle isn’t over,” Taylor Adams, 13, said in a release from the group. “But we asked them to consider planet over profits, and stop risking the long-term health of our ocean for the short-term revenue of a few.”
Another student noted that cruise ship passengers spend an average of $125 on shore excursions, a fraction of the $3 billion spent annually by tourists in the city.
“Millions of tourists call the bay priceless,” said Aliya Denton, 13. “According to the cruise lobby, it has a price: $125 average per passenger. No amount is worth allowing cruise ships into a protected marine sanctuary.”
The cruise ship industry does have its supporters who don’t want to lose the economic benefits for the city.
“Cruise ship visitors literally walk up and down our beautiful coastline, visit Cannery Row, the wharf and downtown Monterey, filling our restaurants and purchasing items from our retail stores,” said Kristin Horton, executive director of Monterey County Hospitality.
She noted that the city is still trying to recover from losses during the pandemic.
“Now is not the time to walk away from welcoming our cruise ship visitors who generously spend during their short visit to our destination,” she continued.
City officials noted they are unable to ban the cruise ships, but the actions taken will force the industry to find and fund their own way to process passengers disembarking.
Cruise industry officials are not sure that is a step they will take.
“There are federal laws that require any facility handling passengers to meet certain requirements,” said Brian Salerno, a senior vice president with the Cruise Lines International Association. “Right now, that’s done by the city, so that would have to be shifted to private activity. Whether there’s an appetite to do that or not, I don’t know yet.”
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