The next chapter in the Key West cruise ship saga continues this evening when the City of Key West commissioners assemble in City Hall for the February 15th City Commission meeting. There are two matters concerning cruise ships on tonight’s agenda. The first, an ordinance which would place regulations on ships docking in the city. The second, a Monday morning agenda add-on, a proposed resolution that would prohibit docking at city owned and leased property.
ORDINANCE – Agenda Item #18 (First Reading) – Cruise Ship Regulations
The Cruise Ship Regulations ordinance includes language dealing with pollution of air and water, penalties related to the failure to cleanup water pollution, and requiring environmental certification. The ordinance would also establish a Coral Reef Restoration Fund along with creating a mechanism for the funding the restoration fund. Language within the ordinance also deals with cruise passenger healthcare services, and the repeal of other inconsistent provisions.
Specifically, the Ordinance would:
- Prohibit air and water pollution, define pollution, assess clean-up costs and assess fee for failure to pay costs.
- Require that ships obtain “Green Marine” environmental certification and maintain certification or be prohibited from docking at Key West.
- Establish a coral reef restoration fund, provide a source of funding, including a per-passenger fee.
- Require that passenger health care services, except for life-threatening emergencies, are provided onboard and that passengers with transmissible illnesses requiring on-shore care would be transported to facilities outside of Key West.
One opponent of the ordinance, Bill Walsh, who represents the interests of Pier B submitted a public comment to express their disappointment with the ordinance saying “this proposal reflects the City’s lack of vision as to how to manage the impact of passenger cruise ships on the city. The only goal seems to be appearing to regulate cruise vessels.”
Safer, Cleaner Ships, the group behind the original cruise ship referendums which were voted on an passed by Key West voters in November 2020 did not submit a public comment, at least on record, but did publish a newsletter pointing out the “ordinance does not include any limitations on the size of ships permitted to call at Key West, nor the number of passengers that may disembark each day.” One of the key issues voters approved in the referendums to limit ship size and passengers debarking.
As a result of the ordinance, the Safer Cleaner Ships offered the City the following compromise in the form of a resolution.
RESOLUTION – Agenda Item #19 – Cruise Ship Ban at City Owned/Leased Property
The Safer Cleaner Ships’ proposed resolution, co-sponsored by Mayor Johnston and Commissioner Davila, includes three key components:
- No more cruise ships at City-controlled property. That means no more cruise ships at Mallory; and no more cruise ships at the Mole. It means no more two-ship days; and no more three-ship days.
- City coordination with the US Navy and other federal and state agencies to ensure that Pier B follows existing law. That means no more incursions onto Navy lands by over-large cruise ships which exceed the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection lease boundaries; and no more violations of the Clean Water Act.
- No new cruise port development in Key West. That means the City’s stated efforts to draft a new development agreement with Mark Walsh and authorize new development at Pier B must stop.
The second is a proposed resolution would prohibit the docking of, disembarkation of cruise passengers from, any cruise ship at any and all properties owned or leased by the City of Key West. Additiontally, the resolution includes language to oppose expanding or enlarging existing permitted areas for cruise ship operations
It is important to note, the resolution as currently written includes an exception allowing ships to dock for emergency situations.
The Key West Bar Pilots felt this add-on was last minute, responding with a public comment requesting 7-days to review, and comment on the resolution before the City Commission takes this item up for discussion.
Since the referendums became effective only to have the State of Florida overrule, and most recently City of Key West discussions, Disney Cruise Line proactively swapped previously scheduled calls to Key West with other ports or days at sea, and has not included Key West in recent itinerary announcements.
UPDATE: Both Ordinance & Resolution Pulled
During the meeting, it was first revealed the resolution was pulled, Then, later in the meeting, the ordinance was pulled. There is a March 1, 2022 mediation between the City of Key West and Pier B. Safer, Cleaner Ships was invited to attend, and at the urging of the commission verbalized their intent to attend the mediation.
It is worth noting, the city’s attorney acknowledged the ordinance was not intended to be a final ordinance to come to a vote tonight. In reality, it was a starting point of sorts to work towards a resolution the issue.