The Norwegian Breakaway can be seen through the fog in the Gulf of Maine as Portland Pilots retrieve the cruise ship from the harbor Tuesday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

It’s a foggy morning on Union Wharf in Portland as the crew of the Spring Point prepares to head out into the harbor. The water is calm as the pilot boat sets out on the roughly two-hour trip to guide the Norwegian Breakaway, a 3,900-passenger cruise ship, to shore.

“It’s our job to advise the captains of the ships how to get into the berths and the docks and the harbors safely,” said Capt. Calvin Klopp, president of Portland Pilots Inc., which keeps ships moving safely through Portland Harbor.

Cruise ships are a large part of their business.

“We do about 300 ships per year and about 80 of them are cruise ships,” Klopp said.

The Portland Pilots is a small business – they have only about six employees – but they’re one of several groups that say waterfront workers would be hurt by Question E, a referendum that would restrict the number of passengers who can disembark from cruise ships to 1,000 per day in an effort to reduce congestion and pollution.

“These ships come in with a lot of people,” said Walter Russell Jr., president of the Portland chapter of the Propeller Club of the United States, a professional maritime organization whose members include shipping agents, terminal operators and tugboat crews. “If the law states only 1,000 people can disembark from the cruise lines they won’t even come. It will wipe all of that business out.”


As the Nov. 8 vote nears, those who work on the waterfront are urging residents to vote against the proposal to protect their jobs and the economy.

The Maine chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America’s Livable Portland campaign, which put the question on the ballot, no longer supports the question and is instead promoting a compromise that aims to reduce carbon pollution from ships while maintaining jobs.


That the DSA is walking away from the proposal is a sticking point for opponents, who worry about what would happen if the referendum passes because people don’t know enough about the ballot question or the compromise. At the same time, there are unanswered questions about the new plan, including how and when it could be enacted.

Steve Jordan pilots the Spring Point on a trip way out to retrieve a cruise ship from the harbor Tuesday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

“I think people may know about (Question E) but not enough about it,” said Jack Humeniuk, the New England representative for the International Longshoreman’s Association, a union representing maritime workers. “They may not know as much about the compromise we’ve achieved, which will probably get better results than the referendum. That’s the point I would want to get out, to vote ‘No’ so we can have a better alternative in place.”

The compromise proposal, developed by the DSA, the longshoreman’s union and the Maine State Building & Construction Trades Council, would require the installation of shoreside power stations for all cruise ships by 2028. All cruise ships would have to plug in by 2029. It would also impose a $2.50 per passenger surcharge to help defray the costs and pay for a shoreline power study.


They’re calling on the City Council to take up the plan. Councilor Andrew Zarro, who chairs the sustainability and transportation committee, said they are already studying shoreline power as part of broader goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the city under the One Climate Future plan.


Central Maine Power met with the committee this month as it researches how to build the needed infrastructure, and how much it will cost.

“Shore power is a component of that that they can help us accomplish,” Zarro said. “If we were to pass a policy without consulting with the major utility I don’t think that would accomplish anything.”

Capt. Calvin Klopp holds onto a rope from the bow of Portland Pilots boat Spring Point as he gets ready to board the cruise ship Norwegian Breakaway. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

And CruiseMaine, part of the Maine Office of Tourism, is working on a feasibility study for the project, Zarro said.

Another priority, Zarro said, is a capacity study laid out in the One Climate Future plan to be completed by 2025. That study will look at the city’s ability to improve the efficiency and capacity of transmission and distribution networks and to improve the electricity supply.


“I’m happy folks are advocating for shore power because it’s in the context of One Climate Future and our goals,” Zarro said. “We want people to support that and care about that. I think regardless of what happens with the November election … it’s not really going to have an effect on making this happen in any different way. So much of this is bigger than Portland, and that’s why we’re pulling in these stakeholders (like CMP) now.”

Humeniuk, of the longshoreman’s association, said about 30 union members on the Portland waterfront would be impacted by Question E. “This would be about 30 percent of their income or more (that’s lost),” Humeniuk said. “And it provides revenue for our benefit funds like pension and stuff like that. So it really has a huge impact.”

People watch as passengers disembark from the cruise ship Norwegian Breakaway at Ocean Gateway on a foggy Tuesday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Humeniuk said the union was glad to reach a compromise, though there are still questions about how it could be implemented. “The biggest one is of course in what timeframe would this be practical and available to do?” he said.

“The avenue to accomplish the goals and objectives (DSA wants) would be better if we work together at the city level with the council to iron out some of these things so we wouldn’t lose jobs and at the same time we can achieve goals of cleaner air and less congestion in the city,” Humeniuk said.

Klopp, of the Portland Pilots, said cruise ships make up about 60 percent of the company’s annual revenue. He said the compromise proposal and shoreside power are a step in the right direction. “To get rid of cruise ships altogether is not the answer,” he said. “Working with the industry to come up with greener, cleaner solutions is.”

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