A Potential New Commercial Boat Waterway Fee in Fall River

A waterway fee for commercial vessels is being proposed by the sixth floor in government center in Fall River as a means of paying for various services including boat maintenance for fire, police and the harbormaster as well as toxic spill containment training.


Fall River Current Harbormaster Robert Smith reassured recreational boaters this would not apply to them.


“The ordinance proposed does not in any way apply to recreational boaters,” he said. “It will apply to a very, very select group of commercial boaters.”


Stationary barges, along with commercial and cargo vessels would be the subject to a commercial waterway fee that would constantly be applied for cargo ships every time they dock on Fall River waterfront to put a stop from commercial boaters taking advantage of the cheap storage.


“It has potential to be a nuisance if not applied,” Smith explained. “They’re being parked here as dead storage because it's much less expensive to keep these boats in Fall River than in otherwise.”


Smith told a recent session of the legislation and ordinance committee that New Bedford could potentially make an additional $200 per day in additional revenue.


“Fall River is unique in that we have so much industrial waterfront,” the Harbormaster said. “There’s no other place to keep these things and it seems like we’re accumulating a lot of them.”


Smith has issue with them not being apart of the city’s waterfront community while taking advantage of its space


“They’re not part of our waterfront community which would be a good thing. They’re just dead storage in between use and being repaired. A lot of the space being used is taken up by unsightly barges.”


There are also safety and environmental concerns.


“The potential threats are an increase in oil spills, recently,” Smith said. “We’re certain its related to these commercial boats being here.”


Another concern leading to the proposal of this waterway fee for commercial boaters is the issue of foreign flag boats that the city has less control over than domestic ships.


“We get a lot of boats here that are foreign flag boats,” Fall River’s Harbor Master told the session. “They go from the state pier to Haiti, Belize and Libya for example. We have very, very little regulatory authority over these boats.”


Smith continued, “Yet, they’re in our waterways. The state pier has no facility for waste facilities or gray water removal. They could be here for a week at a time and are constantly pumping this gray water in our waterways.”


Council will continue to tackle this proposal later on this Spring after it was passed through its first reading at the most recent session of the ordinance and legislation committee.