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Key West set to try — again — to limit cruise ship visits to the island

 The Celebrity Millennium docked at the privately-managed Pier B in Key West March 4, 2022.
Nancy Klingener
The Celebrity Millennium docked at the privately-managed Pier B in Key West March 4, 2022.

On Thursday, the Key West City Commission is set to consider measures that would spell out the rules for ships that visit the island, and cut back on the number of ships.

A proposed ordinance would require ships to pay for cleanup costs for any pollution and abide by all state, federal and international rules.

"We need to have environmental guidelines in there and they need to be enforced," said Mayor Teri Johnston, who supported the limits voters approved in 2020. Those limits — including a maximum 1,500 people a day visiting the island by cruise ship and banning ships with a capacity of more than 1,300 people — were overturned last year by the state Legislature.

Under the proposed ordinance, passenger disembarkation fees would pay for regular water quality testing, along with coral reef restoration projects.

"How do you know if somebody's violating water quality and the environment if you're not testing them?" Johnston said.

Key West commissioners are also scheduled to consider a resolution that would direct cruise ships away from the two piers the city controls, and toward the privately managed Pier B.

"We had a maximum capacity every week of 21 ships," Johnston said. "This cuts it back to a maximum of seven."

The resolution calls for any ships that call at Mallory Pier, which the city owns, or the Outer Mole, which it leases from the Navy, to comply with the limits that voters approved.

The special commission meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday, March 10, at City Hall, 1300 White St. The public can watch the meeting online, and attend and comment by Zoom.

Copyright 2022 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Nancy Klingener covers the Florida Keys for WLRN. Since moving to South Florida in 1989, she has worked for the Miami Herald, Solares Hill newspaper and the Monroe County Public Library.