By: R. Michael Brown, Civic Association Communication Director -- The Port of Palm Beach Commission voted yes 5-0 to addi a second cruise ship to the Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line in 2018 at their commission meeting. The new cruise ship is currently sailing as Costa neoClassica.

According to reports (see link below), port executive director Manuel Almira projects a second vessel would add slightly more than $15m additional revenue over a 10-year period.

The new agreement would commence June 1, 2018, and cover both Grand Celebration and neoClassica. The agreement is contingent on a vessel purchase or charter agreement for the Costa ship. Costa reported the sale of neoClassica earlier this month.

The port estimates the two vessels would carry 765,000 passengers a year, up from 480,000 with one ship.

The Costa Classica underwent a refit in 2014 to join the Costa neoCollection as the Costa neoClassica. She set sail in December 2014 to home port in Port Louis (Mauritius), from January 11 through February 22, 2015 the Costa neoClassica offered four 16-day Indian Ocean cruises. It's currently sailing in the Mediteranian with port calls in Piraeus, Greece and Bari, Italy.

On board are 2 restaurants, 9 bars, 2 swimming pools, and 4 whirlpools. It was announced on August 2, 2017 she will leave the fleet in March 2018.

Read More (Seatrade Cruise News)

A letter of concern was sent to the Port of Palm Beach by the Save Our Inlet Coalition (SOIC) about the addition of the new cruise ship and the process the Port followed. See letter below:

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August 16, 2017

Commissioner Blair Ciklin, Chairman
Commissioner Jean Enright, Vice-Chair
Commissioner Wayne Richards
Commissioner Katherine Waldron
Commissioner Peyton McArther

Port of Palm Beach
1 East 11th St.
Suite 600
Riviera Beach, FL 33404

Re: Addition of Costa Neoclassica cruise ship to operations.

The Save Our Inlet Coalition (SOIC) understands that Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line (Grand Celebration) has
purchased a second cruise ship, the Costa Neoclassica, and that they plan to begin serving cruise passengers with
this vessel from the Port of Palm Beach in 2018 and that to accommodate this ship, Port staff is placing a proposed
contract amendment which staff has negotiated with Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line before you during your August,
2017 meeting.

Changing the Port’s operations to accommodate a second cruise ship that is larger than allowed by
current safety requirements is an extremely important step and decision process for the Port and all aspects of this
decision should be carefully considered with enough time given to the process that all factors are included.
Since this ship and the companion Grand Celebration would be the largest ships utilizing the Port and, as such,
have a disproportionate impact on the utilization of the inlet and surrounding environments, the SOIC is
committed to seeing that all issues associated with adding such a ship to regular Port traffic are carefully
considered as a part of the decision process. Some of the issues that we think are important for you to consider
are identified below.

Of extreme importance is the fact that Port staff did not notify commissioners, existing Port tenants and
surrounding communities in a timely manner that they (staff) were considering adding a second ship to the Port’s
cruise operations. To our knowledge, Port Commissioners were first informed of the Costa Neoclassica last
month. Some of the Port’s most important and financially stable tenants were not aware of the move to add the
Costa Neoclassica until we, the SOIC, informed them. Yet, significant steps have already been taken to add the
ship to operations. We understand that Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line has already purchased Costa Neoclassica.
Numerous trade press articles have been published announcing the sale and none have mentioned any
contingencies that had to be met for the sale to be completed. This would seem to imply that you have already
approved the use of this ship in the Port. How could such a decision be made without thorough and public review
of the proposal, its impact on long standing and successful Port tenants, and input from surrounding communities
that would be impacted by the additional operations and passengers?

There is no evidence that the impacts on safety of operations and liability to the Port associated with adding this
second ship have been thoroughly considered. In prior published documents and statements, the Port has
contended that safety issues currently exist within the inlet and turning basin with current Port traffic (prior to
adding a second cruise ship). We have repeatedly asked Port staff and Commissioners for documented evidence of
these safety issues, but have never received a response. As elected Commissioners we think you have an
obligation and duty to consider the impact that all new Port traffic might have on safety and the operations of
existing tenants and surrounding communities and to assure that appropriate plans are in place.

The Palm Beach Port’s Pilot Association has published documents stating that “Due to the narrow width of the
Inner Channel, all vessels with a beam of over 100’ feet are restricted from entering.” (underline added for
emphasis) (http://www.palmbeachpilots.com/largevsl.shtml) The Costa Neoclassica with a beam at waterline of
101 feet and a maximum beam of 111.5 clearly exceeds the maximum allowed by the Pilots Association. We
understand that the Pilot Association has sent a team to examine the ship and determine how she maneuvers and
that they have had conversations with the owners of Grand Celebration about the ship. Since the ship violates the
vessel restrictions stated in their own requirements, how will such safety issues be addressed and what operating
changes will be made to allow the lifting of this restriction? Has this been reviewed by other tenants in the Port to
determine if it may restrict their operations in any way?

The Commission has previously stated that the Port’s prior plans to widen and deepen the inlet and turning basin
were not practical and would not be pursued. If this second cruise ship, with a beam that exceeds current safety
requirement is allowed to begin using the Port, it should only be done with specific acknowledgement that it is not
a case of the camel getting his nose in the tent, thereby leading to future requests to revive those expansion
efforts.

Adding a second cruise ship of the size proposed will have a disproportionate impact on traffic and the surrounding
marine environment. The Commission should take such impacts into consideration, particularly those on
manatees, and if the ship is added, make sure that appropriate operational guidelines and controls are in place.
As stated above, we understand that other Port users have not been consulted in advance to make sure you have a
complete understanding of the impact a second cruise ship might have on long standing operations. This should
be corrected as a part of the decision process, particularly as it relates to long standing, successful and financially
stable tenants.

As we understand the berthing plan, there is not room for both cruise ships to be in Port simultaneously. The
Commission should have full awareness and understanding of what may happen if one of the cruise ships was
disabled for any period of time? Has a contingency plan been developed that works for the Port and existing
tenants?

The Costa Neoclassica has several incidents on its safety record. Is it currently operated in a safe manner? Are
there any weaknesses or problems left over from prior collisions that should be considered before admitting the
ship to the Port?

From the perspective of impact on surrounding communities, we think you should note that the existing cruise
ship is often operated with exterior music while berthed at port and while navigating the inlet. It is often loud and
intrusive to surrounding residential neighborhoods. The Commission should address this as a part of the
operating requirements for all cruise ships with the intent of minimizing these impacts.

Is the overall height of the Costa Neoclassica, which is approximately 156 feet above the water line, greater than
that of the existing cruise ship? In addition to length and beam, the overall mass of large ships is imposing to
boaters and neighbors and should be considered by Commissioners when making your decisions regarding
operating guidelines, particularly arrival and departure times.

A significant negative impact on Tropical Shipping and other viable, long standing Port tenants would be sufficient
reason to deny the new cruise ship. Absent such an impact, the positive impacts on local economies could be a
reason to try to accommodate the ships use of the Port. We think the Commission’s duty is to consider all
important factors when making such a decision and you should not delegate to staff matters of this importance to
the Port and surrounding communities. Municipalities and surrounding communities should also be involved in
the planning and decision process since the impacts, both positive and negative, may be significant.

We respectfully request that you consider these comments and put in place a process for thorough review and
resolution of all issues prior to approving a second cruise ship that is larger than allowed by the Ports Pilot
Association. In addition, if and when you approve the proposed contract for this ship, we request that it include a
policy statement that such action will not be used as future reason to revive the previously proposed expansion
project.

Sincerely

Keith Beaty
President

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Manuel Almira, Port Executive Director told SOIC members that attended the Commission meeting that the Port will address SOIC concerns.

Additiomal Information

neoClassica [Proposed to operate out of Port of Palm Beach in 2018]
Built: 1991
Tonnage: 52,926 GT
Length: 722 ft (220 m)
Beam: 102 ft (31 m)
Draft: 25.5 ft (7.8 m)
Decks: 14
Speed:
18.5 knots (normal)
20 knots (maximum)
Capacity:
1,308 passengers (normal)
1,680 passengers (maximum)
Crew: 620

Grand Celebration2Grand Celebration [Currently operating out of the Port of Palm Beach]
Built: 1987
Tonnage: 47,262 GT
Length: 733 ft. (223.37 m)
Beam: 93 ft (28.20 m)
Draught: 25 ft 5 in (7.75 m)
Decks: 10 (passenger accessible)
Speed: 21.7 knots (40.2 km/h; 25.0 mph)
Capacity: 1,496 passengers
Crew: 670

Current cruise ship Grand Clebration coming into Lake Worth (Palm Beach) Inlet between Peanut Island and the Town of Palm Beach shoreline.

Costa neoClassica Ship Leaving Port (2:09)

Costa neoClassica Ship Tour (2:09)

Additional Press

 

Port of Palm Beach to Consider Adding Second Cruise Ship (Palm Beach Post)

 

Is Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line Getting a New Ship? (Seatrade Cruise News)