Long a popular spot on several itineraries, Key West, Florida could soon begin turning away large cruise ships if a ballot initiative passes this November.
The Key West Committee For Safe Cleaner Ships has set its sights on reducing the number of ships calling on the port, using the current health crisis to bolster their argument.
In the arguments made on the organization’s website, they state, “We must balance the limited benefits of cruise ships against the larger health, environmental and economic interests of Key West.”
Their plan to do so? Limit both the types of cruise ships allowed to dock and the number of passengers allowed to disembark on any given day.
In their attempts to draw attention to their petition and referendum, the group focuses on the role cruise ships played in the early days of the current health crisis. They also argue that cruise ship passengers do not spend as much money while in Key West as do other types of tourists.
“Cruise ship passengers spend an average of only $32 in Key West versus $550 by all other tourists. It takes 17 cruise ship passengers to match the spending 1 non-cruise tourist,” the website claims. “Cruise ship passengers make up 50% of all tourists in Key West but only 8% of all tourist spending.”
Left out of their equation is the fact that each of the 390 ships which visited Key West last year — carrying 1.2 million guests and crew members — paid a per-guest tax, as well as docking fees.
The Organization’s Three Goals
On the site, the group spells out their three very specific targets in regard to passenger disembarkation and ship arrivals. They are as follows:
- “The number of persons disembarking from cruise ships shall be limited to a total of not more than 1,500 persons per day at any and all public and privately owned or leased property located within the municipal boundary of the City of Key West.”
- “Cruise ships with the capacity to carry 1,300 or more persons (passengers and crew) shall be prohibited from disembarking individuals.”
- “The city of Key West shall give preference and priority to cruise ships and cruise lines that have the best environmental record (the lowest number of environmental violations, penalties and fines) and best health record (the best scores and least number of fiolations in health inspections and reports issued by the Centers for Disease Control Vessel Sanitation Program.”
Florida Keys Weekly reports that the group needed approximately 1,500 signatures (equaling 10 percent of the city’s population) in order to get the measures on the ballot.
Having succeeded with around 2,500 signatures, the measures will each be put to a “yes” or “no” vote on November 3rd.
Should the measures pass, the city would see it’s cruise ship visits drop by nearly 95 percent, according to Scott Atwell, executive vice president of the Key West Chamber of Commerce. And while the Chamber has voted to support the measure relating to the environment, it will not support the other two measures.
“We have and always will support the environment,” Greg Sullivan, president of the Chamber told Florida Keys Weekly, “but these new restrictions would prohibit ships like the Disney ships and the new Virgin Voyages cruise ship from visiting Key West. Our biggest concern is unintended consequences. The city is already making plans to eliminate police and fire positions if the referendums pass and the city loses tens of millions of dollars in cruise ship revenues.”
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