City officials say move doesn’t leave Fort Madison out of talks
BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Fort Madison officials learned Tuesday that Burlington has signed an agreement with Viking Cruise Lines for docking rights once the cruise line is up and running on the Mississippi.
Burlington officials approved a two-year initial deal Monday night with the cruise company to start in 2022 with 30 projected stops.
The move puts into question efforts by Fort Madison city officials to have Viking dock in Fort Madison. The city and the cruise line have been in talks for more than three years to formalize an agreement.
At a city council meeting in October, Mayor Brad Randolph said some misinformation about the depth of water needed for the ships to dock came to light and the cruise line could possibly use the current pier to dock, making the idea of having two cruise lines docking in Fort Madison a possibility.
American Cruise Lines uses the pier now. Initially the city was looking at about a $1.7 million expense to extend the pier out to deeper water for Viking, but that water depth is now not an issue.
Mayor-elect Matt Mohrfeld said he’d had a conversation with Viking representative David Simmons about week ago.
“He said Fort Madison may not work out with the significant improvements that would be required,” Mohrfeld said. “I’m coming in on this at the 11th hour, but that’s the thumbnail of what I know.”
Mohrfeld said if Viking ends up eventually with more boats on the river excursions and Fort Madison offers valuable tours, a deal could possibly be worked out in the future.
Randolph said Tuesday morning that the Viking was trying to shore up Letters of Intent with docking cities so they could release information about the stops this winter. Viking plans on having ships on the Mississippi in 2022.
But he said lines of communication with Viking are still open and he’s seen the schedule of stops for 2022-2023 and none of the dates would have been concurrent with any American Cruise Lines stops in the city.
“The American Cruise Line agreement changed the dynamic with Viking,” Randolph said.
“If we’d known in April that we didn’t need the depth of water we were told we would need, we might have pushed through the Letter of Intent with Viking and that could have hurt our chances of getting ACL. So we’re happy with how things have worked out,” Randolph said.
“That being said, we’re still looking at how we can work with Viking Cruise Lines in the future. We just weren’t in a position to share in any costs of improvements, and were not at the point where we could have signed a letter of intent with them.”
Randolph said he would updating the Fort Madison City council at tonight’s meeting. City staff is also planning a budget workshop following the meeting.
City Manager David Varley said he has looked at the schedule of both cruise lines and agreed that there aren’t any conflicting docking dates.
“I think they had some concerns about the improvements that would be required and they decided to go to Burlington,” Varley said.
“They wanted exclusive rights to the dock, too, But we’re still working with them and hope we work something out becuase there are no schedule conflicts at this point.”