Officials Discuss Anchorage Fee for Visiting Large Vessels

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The mega yacht “Invictus” is just one example of a large vessel that has anchored in Newport Harbor.
— NB Indy file photo by Steve Barrett ©

Large visiting vessels looking to moor in Newport Harbor may face a different fee in the near future, as a discussion aimed at the issue was kicked off Wednesday at a Newport Beach Harbor Commission meeting.

The point of the discussion was to broach the idea and give direction to the ad hoc committee, said Harbor Resources Manager Chris Miller.

The thought for many years has been to charge these oversized boats a pro-rated mooring permit fee, which varies depending on size. For a boat like the 216-foot Invictus, a “mega yacht” that has anchored in Newport Harbor in the past, the fee would break down to – very roughly – between $17 to $21 per day.

“No matter how you calculate it…[at that rate] it’s almost irrelevant,” noted Commission Chair Bill Kenney, who opened the item up for discussion.

Officials have previously questioned whether a more proportionate fee would be appropriate. On Wednesday, commissioners seemed to agree that the fee should be more than what the city is currently charging, but should stay reasonable.

Commissioner Dave Girling pointed out that they have to consider everything that goes into allowing a vessel of that size stay in Newport Harbor, including staff effort and time and the different process.

He also suggested looking at how other harbors handle the situation. Docking fees – which are different from mooring fees – can go up to hundreds or thousands of dollars, Commissioner John Drayton added.

Miller noted that staff will review other harbors up and down the California coast.

They also want to consider that they still want to encourage boaters from elsewhere to come to Newport, Drayton pointed out.

“There is some amount that, probably, is warranted over and above the amount we’re currently charging,” Girling said. “We can probably come up with something that is consistent and fair for a large vessel that’s moored in our harbor.”

Over the past few years, the larger vessels have anchored in the turning basin, adjacent to the temporary trial anchorage area.

They need to look at this issue closely, Drayton said.

As far as the timeline goes, Miller explained that the Commission should aim to make a recommendation to the Finance Committee around September then they will review the fee schedule as a whole in the fall and hopefully to City Council sometime next year.

“This could be – potentially – wrapped into the fee schedule,” Miller explained.

Kenney asked whether it was reasonable to ask if staff could try and put a number on what it takes to moor a larger vessel.

Fee studies are not quick and/or easy, but they could try, Miller said.

“We could approximate to the nearest degree as best we can,” he said.

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