Commentary: Occasional mega-yacht visits good for Newport

The Harbor Commission's recent 5-1 decision favoring the temporary moorage of two super yachts in our harbor has, to my surprise, created much controversy. As one commissioner who voted in support of the temporary permits, I offer my perspective.

The two vessel owners requesting the temporary permits have substantial roots in our community and asked for the permits because each of them see Newport Harbor as the right place for their special events — a vessel christening and a family wedding.

The vessels, Invictus and Marama, are respectively 216 feet and 130 feet in length. While not particularly large in the world of mega yachts, these are significant yachts in their own right and are large by Newport Beach standards where boats of about 100 feet typically represent the upper range. (Stroll the Bay Club promenade for a look at a fine array of "big boats" by Newport standards.)

So, while large by local standards, I'm certain neither vessel is too large for the temporary arrangements they have requested.

Harbor depths confirmed during our recent dredging project verify sufficient depths for both boats; the turning basin at the west end of Lido Isle is more than large enough to accommodate either vessel without obstructing the use of that area by others or creating a hazard to navigation; and both boats will be staffed with professional crews at all times.

Both vessels are equipped with sophisticated water, power and waste management systems, which require no shore support during their brief stays and, in my opinion, avoid any reasonable health, safety or public nuisance concerns.

In its recommendation to the harbor resources manager that the temporary permits should be issued, the Harbor Commission included two conditions: the vessels should not be moored in the turning basin at the same time, and both should be secured by a stern mooring and not permitted to swing at anchor.

Each year the Harbor Commission develops a set of objectives, some of which fall under an overarching goal of "Promoting Newport Harbor as a Preferred and Welcoming Destination." After first considering the health and safety factors, I believe it was the spirit of this goal that led the Harbor Commission to decide as it did.

As I see it, the visits of these beautiful and important yachts help build our "brand" as a Southern California harbor destination of choice. Unlike some who have spoken against the permits, I am not concerned that these visits will touch off a flood of mega yachts seeking similar mooring arrangements in Newport Harbor. Birds of a feather tend to flock together and mega yacht owners are typically drawn to the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. The relatively few who come this way, often en route to the Pacific Northwest, are most likely to put in at San Diego, where super yacht accommodations are readily available.

Newport Harbor does not have the infrastructure necessary to support a mega yacht fleet and I know of no one who believes our harbor should be trying to develop that business. But I believe that the occasional use of our harbor by visiting vessels like Invictus and Marama is well within the capacity of our harbor and good for our city.

DOUGLAS WEST is a Newport Beach Harbor Commissioner.

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