2017-05-11 / Front Page

Get Ready to Wait for a Mooring Rental

By Bob Rulli

This map of Newport Harbor and its mooring locations can be viewed on the City of Newport's Website Departments>Harbor Management>Mooring & Docks. It is the Newport Harbor Charlet pdf. This map of Newport Harbor and its mooring locations can be viewed on the City of Newport's Website Departments>Harbor Management>Mooring & Docks. It is the Newport Harbor Charlet pdf. As warm weather looms and boats begin to appear in and around Newport Harbor, you might be thinking about purchasing a boat. No need to rush into the decision. It could be a long time before you can rent a mooring.

The average wait time for a mooring in the four areas of the harbor that Newport manages is 10 years for residents and, according to the city’s website, 15 years for non-residents. In fact, it could be even longer.

There are 900 moorings in Newport Harbor, located at Main Harbor, Point, Spindle and Brenton Cove. By city ordinance, 75 percent are reserved for residents, with the remaining 25 percent available to non-residents. If non-resident moorings exceed 25 percent at any time, new moorings that become available are offered to residents until a ratio of 3-to-1 is achieved. According to Harbormaster Timothy Mills, “Right now, it is almost 50/50, so the city is not issuing any non-resident permits at this time.”

That limit on non-resident permits is currently under review by the Rhode Island Coastal Resource Management Council (CRMC) as part of a five-year review of the city’s Harbor Management Plan, "Although," said Mills, “there is some question [in the ordinance] as to whether CRMC actually approved the non-resident limit. [As part of the review, the CRMC] will look at the current situation in the harbor and could require us to issue additional permits,” he said.

The annual cost of a mooring rental is determined by the weight of the mooring ball, which is determined by the size of the vessel designated to be on the mooring. Mooring balls run from 75 to 600 pounds. The cost for residents is 55 cents per pound, $1.10 for nonresidents and $1.40 for commercial owners.

Forty of the 900 available moorings are set aside for transient rentals, nine are designated for tall ships and 230 are for commercial moorings. Owners of a commercial mooring can rent the mooring to transient boaters, which owners of private moorings are prohibited from doing. Some commercial owners have one mooring, while a maritime business such as Oldport Marine Services, Inc. could own numerous moorings.

Owners of commercial moorings can also sell them, which concerns Mills. Considering the difficulty in securing a private mooring, there is value in a commercial mooring, just as there is value in the limited number of liquor licenses available in the city.

Mills said that selling commercial moorings is not a widespread practice. “[But] there seems to be more instances where commercial owners are profiting [from selling them to boaters],” he said

There are no regulations on what a commercial owner can charge to sell a mooring.

So, how does one secure a mooring through the city? First, you submit an application and $25 to the harbormaster’s office, at which point your name is added to a list. And then you wait.

You will receive a notice from the harbormaster every year to renew your application for $10 in order to stay on the list. And then you wait some more. Currently, there are approximately 550 people on the waiting list.

Once you obtain a mooring, there are strict regulations regarding its management and use. Mooring owners must hold at least a 50-percent interest in the vessel that is on the mooring. If a business owns the vessel, the ownership interest in the business must be at least 51 percent. Documentation of ownership is required prior to a mooring being issued. Mills admits that enforcement of the ownership requirement is “difficult” and said, “There are definitely people who are cheating the system.”

Provisions allow guests to use the mooring for a period of seven days, with a limit of 14 days in one year. There are exceptions to those time periods, but they require a written request for approval in advance. Transfer or the sale of a mooring is prohibited, except when the owner dies. In the event of death, the mooring may be transferred to an immediate family member. However, it cannot subsequently be transferred. A permit owner is required to use a mooring once it is issued or risk forfeiting it.

Mills has been harbormaster for 16 years and works with an administrative assistant at Perrotti Park. His staff swells to 23 during the summer, spread among boat crews, with staffing at the Maritime Center, Visitors Center and the Harbormaster’s building. The office is funded through the Enterprise Fund instead of the city’s General Fund. In the case of the harbormaster's office, the Maritime Fund generates income from mooring leases, cruise ship fees, dockage fees and transient rentals. The Waterfront Commission works closely with Mills on the management of the harbor.

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