CRUISE SHIPS: NEW RULES ARE UNDERWAY IN KEY WEST

Some of the first cruise ship passengers to return to Key West, following the COVID-related no-sail order, disembark at the privately controlled Pier B dock. MANDY MILES/Keys Weekly

Could this be it? Could a resolution be imminent after nearly two years of Key West’s great cruise ship debate?

We’ll know at the city commission’s special meeting at 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 10, when officials discuss and decide on a resolution that proposes to “direct the docking of and disembarkation of passengers from cruise ships away from City of Key West-controlled property.”

The proposal on the table is to “direct cruise ship activity away from all public property to the Pier B dock, and ensure that cruise ship activity at the Pier B dock and any private property conforms to state and federal regulations,” according to the resolution on Thursday’s agenda.

In order to avoid running afoul of the state law that preempted Key West’s voter-approved cruise ship reductions and prohibits the restriction of maritime commerce by any Florida port, the resolution further states, “the City of Key West seeks only to direct cruise ship operations away from public property to the Pier B dock and not to prohibit cruise ship operations or to restrict maritime commerce.”

The proposed resolution is a result of a long, legal mediation with Judge Sandra Taylor that included the city’s attorneys Shawn Smith and Ed Pozzuoli, as well as City Manager Patti McLauchlin, owners of the privately operated Pier B and representatives of the Safer Cleaner Ships committee, which led the charge against large cruise ships starting in mid-2020.

“It is the intent of the city commission that all cruise ships will dock at a designated, non-city controlled pier at the City of Key West, known as Pier B, and that when a cruise ship is docked at Pier B, no cruise ship will dock at a City of Key West-controlled property,” the resolution continues. “In the event that a cruise ships docks at a City of Key West- controlled property, it is the intent of the city commission that cruise ships with the capacity to carry 1,300 or more persons (passengers and crew) shall not disembark individuals at any and all City of Key West-controlled property; and that the number of persons disembarking from cruise ships with the capacity to carry less than 1,300 or more persons (passengers and crew) at any and all City of Key West-controlled property shall be limited to a total of not more than 1,500 persons per day.

“Pier B is expressly excluded from any limitation of cruise operations,” the resolution states.

The March 10 agenda also includes a proposed ordinance that would prohibit water pollution by cruise ships and make them responsible for cleanups of any such pollution. The ordinance also would establish a coral reef restoration fund and a water quality testing program, which many have said has been sorely lacking for Key West’s waters.

The final agenda item on Thursday’s agenda is titled “Agreement for Operations of Pier B,” but as of presstime late Wednesday, March 9, no further information had been linked.

The meeting takes place at 5 p.m. Thursday, March 10. A complete agenda and the resolution and ordinance text are available at cityofkeywest-fl.gov.

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Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.