Juneau officials mulls over cruise ship port project charges

Posted: Wednesday, May 01, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- The Juneau Assembly is trying to reach a consensus on a plan to charge cruise ships for port projects and is considering reimposing tonnage fees.

The assembly failed to reach agreement Monday on port project charges. But it will try again May 6, when it considers resolutions to establish a project-based funding agreement with the industry and tonnage fees.

The city has been working with the cruise industry for the past several months to find a way to pay for port projects. Over the past decade, the city has charged cruise ships a tonnage fee for capital improvements, collecting about $1.7 million in revenue last year.

A 23-cent-per-net-ton fee expired Jan. 1 and the industry asked the city to set up project-based funding instead.

City Manager Dave Palmer, Deputy City Manager Donna Pierce and cruise line representatives met in Seattle on Thursday to discuss the details of such an agreement to pay for improvements to the Marine Park-Steamship Wharf area downtown. The first phase of the project is expected to cost about $5.4 million, the Juneau Empire reported.

The North West CruiseShip Association offered to pay $3.6 million of the total through advance funding or a per-passenger, per-day fee, Palmer said.

Don Habeger, Juneau port manager for Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska, said a new passenger fee could be apportioned by the industry. The cruise lines haven't attached a dollar amount to the passenger fee idea, he said.

Cruise lines pay a separate, city-imposed passenger fee of $5 a person in Juneau to cover industry impacts.

On Monday, the assembly twice tabled a resolution imposing port dues of 16 cents per net ton and voted down a $2 passenger fee for port projects. Amendments that would have set up temporary port dues or applied port dues to a future project agreement also failed.

Assembly member Marc Wheeler said he was disappointed the assembly didn't put some funding mechanism in place to pay for port improvements before Tuesday's arrival of the Norwegian Star, the season's first cruise ship.

''We could end up talking to the cruise lines until October and still not have a mechanism in place,'' he said. ''My big concern is we have to look after the city's bottom line. That's our duty.''

Mayor Sally Smith said she believes the city can have a collaborative relationship with the cruise lines, but added a tonnage tax is needed for bargaining purposes.

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