SALEM — The city may be entering the cruise ship business sooner rather than later.
Salem officials contacted the Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs last month to inform them of a change to two key harbor projects. In that filing, the city said it is seeking permits to make improvements to the 800-foot, deep-water pier at Salem Harbor Station that would allow “large cruise ship berthing” as early as next year.
The city is prepared to spend up to $1 million on the private power plant pier to accommodate mid-sized cruise ships with anywhere from a few hundred to more than 1,500 passengers, according to Kathy Winn, deputy director of the Planning Department.
If permits are secured and all goes well, she said the city hopes to have the pier ready by the end of 2014.
City officials are in talks with Footprint Power, owners of the 65-acre waterfront site, about the cruise ship agreement, according to the July 15 filing with the state.
“Footprint fully supports this water-dependent use of the marine wharf on its property,” stated documents co-signed by Scott Silverstein, a principal of Footprint.
Among the subjects being discussed are short-term accommodations and also a long-term agreement in which the city would use and possibly co-manage the dock, according to Winn, who oversees harbor projects for the city.
“It’s a unique resource,” Winn said. “It’s a deep-water dock on a federal channel. It’s a great opportunity for the city.”
The idea of Salem reaching out for potential cruise landings comes as the cruise industry has pulled back from Gloucester this summer.
While large-scale cruise ships such as the 2,200-passenger Eurodam have carried visitors to Gloucester in recent years, all seven visits this year have and are scheduled to involve much smaller vessels — the Yorktown, which holds 139 passengers and visits three times, and the 49-passenger American Glory, which has regularly visited in the past and is due to make its first 2013 visit this Friday.