A couple of local residents who oppose plans to accommodate small cruise vessels at the town dock have signed onto a recently formed nonprofit seeking to reshape the international cruise industry.

Global Cruise Activist Network launched its "Rethink Cruise Tourism" campaign Dec. 2 with an online press conference including members from Italty to Australia, the Cayman Islands to Alaska. The speakers talked about using the pause in cruising because of COVID-19 to reshape the cruise industry, requiring it to be more environmentally, socially and economically responsible. Many of the locations involved host ships carrying thousands of passengers, and some are heavily dependent on cruise tourists.

Bucksport residents Adrienne Caldwell and David Weed have joined with GCAN in their quest to prevent the much-smaller cruise ships run by American Cruise Lines, which typically carry 100 to 200 passengers, from coming to Bucksport. The Town Council recently received an update on plans to expand the town dock to better accommodate transient boats, as well as to make the town itself more attractive to American and the tourists it serves, according to Town Manager Susan Lessard.

Caldwell, who lives near the town dock and is also close to the site of the planned Whole Oceans land-based salmon farm, said she fears the combined effects of the fish farm, with its effluent, and pollution from visiting cruise ships, along with the existing mercury on the floor of the Penobscot River as a result of industrial waste discharge in decades past. She is also concerned that if cruising is resumed before COVID-19 is brought under control, passengers could bring the illness to her town. Whole Oceans opened an office in town in August, but has yet to begin construction on the proposed fish farm.

Caldwell told The Republican Journal Dec. 3, "Even 100 passengers, in light of COVID, is too many. … This is a small town, and it's just not the appropriate place (for cruise ships)," she said. Apart from the cruise ships, though, she said she is in favor of the dock expansion.

However, Lessard noted that the town has been a docking site for American Cruise Lines for "many years," and the expansion project would simply make more space for pleasure craft, some of which are as big as the ships American runs, to dock simultaneously. There would never be more than one cruise ship docked at a time. As for the larger ships that carry thousands of passengers, she said, "Big ones can't get here. We have a bridge. Cruise ships can't get under it." She added that the main thrust of the dock improvement is to serve transient boaters.

The manager also said the project is part of a long-term plan developed by the town and approved by residents. "We are not a mill town anymore. We have to have a future." Along with the need for economic development, the character of the town has been taken into account. The town has been "very deliberate about our path forward," she said.

For now, the town is doing the engineering and other work necessary to prepare to implement the project once the necessary funding has been secured. The town may apply for grants, and it is possible that some money may be contributed by Holtrachem as part of a settlement of a long-running lawsuit by the National Resources Defense Council and Maine People's Alliance, she said, but that is not certain.

Caldwell told The Journal that some opponents of the cruise ships planned to attend the Town Council meeting Dec. 10. When she heard this, Lessard said she looked forward to the opportunity to hear from them and to respond to their concerns.