Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Assembly approves harbor fee increase

 

December 19, 2019



Harbor fees and port tariffs will be increasing, beginning Jan. 1.

On Tuesday, the borough assembly unanimously adopted an ordinance increasing several port tariffs and harbor fees, most significantly at the Port Chilkoot Dock and in transient moorage.

The Port Chilkoot Lightering Float, which is used exclusively by tour companies and cruise ships, has two rates: a passenger transfer fee for anchored ships that lighter passengers ashore, and a per-docking fee for companies such as the Haines-Skagway Fast Ferry, Alaska Fjordlines and Alaska Excursions.

The $250 fee to cruise ships that bring passengers to and from their anchored vessels to the dock will increase to $500, doubling expected borough revenues to $16,500, based on 2018 figures.

The per-docking fee is set to change from a flat $25.53 vessel rate to a per-passenger rate of $0.50 per arrival and departure, adding an estimated $29,000.

The Port Chilkoot water rate will increase from $50 to $75 to hook up to the Haines Borough water supply, plus the additional cost of water at $4.50 per 1,000 gallons.

Annual moorage at the Small Boat Harbor will increase by $1 per linear foot per year through 2022. Boats moored for longer than three hours will pay an increased transient moorage daily rate of $0.65 per linear foot, or a monthly rate of $6.50 per foot. Total revenue from annual moorage is estimated to be $108,000, while revenue from transient moorage is estimated to be $79,000, based on last year’s vessel traffic.

Annual moorage at Letnikof Cove will increase based on a per-foot vessel formula; plus $50 for vessels up to 25 feet; a $75 increase for vessels 26-40 feet; and an additional $100 for vessels 41 feet and up.

Live-aboard fees will jump from $70 to $75 per month.

Additionally, the ordinance introduces a new user fee for transient commercial passenger vessels. Any transient commercial passenger vessel using harbor facilities will pay a per-passenger fee for disembarking or embarking passengers.

On Tuesday, assembly member Stephanie Scott said she was concerned that the fee increase might negatively affect the Haines economy.

Haines Chamber of Commerce board member Wendell Harren said the chamber suggested further vetting effects on the Haines economy to avoid unintended consequences.

“Considering a spending average of $111 spent per non-resident coming to Haines there is the potential to majorly affect all of the business sectors in Haines,” he said, citing a 2016 McDowell Group study of Haines.

In November, the Tourism Advisory Board unanimously recommended that the borough assembly not increase the lightering fees until further analysis of potential financial losses.

Harbormaster Shawn Bell, who proposed the changes and began the vetting process last winter with the Ports and Harbor Advisory Committee, said he made the changes with practicality in mind. “I put it out there early to get feedback and start the discussion,” he said. “There were no other ideas or alternative suggestions (or formal recommendations) brought forward. I don’t think that it is an exceptional amount of money per passenger coming through.”

Compared to other communities, Bell said the increased fees are “not out of line.”

“It’s difficult to really compare apples to apples with other communities, because there’s a combination of either they’re not owned by a municipality (or) they provide different services and therefore charge in a different manner,” he told the assembly. “The easiest comparison would be Skagway. They charge 97 cents per passenger per direction, so close to $2 per trip.”

Other communities have a head tax on all cruise ship passengers, Bell said; Juneau charges $5 per passenger, and Ketchikan charges $7 (per passenger).

Assembly member Gabe Thomas said Bell is being proactive in anticipation for next year, when the loss of most of Holland America’s port calls to Haines are expected to cut cruise ship passengers by 42,967 people, down 44 percent from 2019, according to a Haines Economic Development Corporation analysis.

“We are seeing the ships leaving but by being proactive with these fees, he’s kind of covering for next year,” Thomas said.

 
 

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