Published February 05. 2013 4:00AM
New London - State Rep. Larry Miller wants to establish a task force to figure out how New London could be developed into a destination port for cruise ships.
Miller, a Republican who represents Shelton, Stratford and Trumbull, introduced a bill that is before the Transportation Committee to establish the task force. A public hearing was held Monday.
"Cruise ships could be a godsend to New London. They bring in a lot of money," said Miller, a member of the Connecticut Maritime Commission.
A state-commissioned study on developing the deep water ports in New London, New Haven and Bridgeport emphasized New London's potential for importing and exporting freight and recommended creating a state port authority.
State Sen. Andrew Maynard, the Senate chairman of the legislature's Transportation Committee, said Miller's idea may be incorporated into the committee's work on the port authority, rather than moving forward as a standalone bill.
Maynard, D-18th District, praised Miller for keeping the cruise ship component of the port study in the forefront. But rather than funding another study, Maynard said, "We need to have the resources to do what we already know we need to do - market New London as a destination and improve the facilities at State Pier."
There is a local Cruise Ship Task Force already to promote cruise ship visits, of which Maynard is a member.
New London competes with Newport, R.I., and other ports along the coast, Maynard said, and it can be tricky to get cruise ships where passengers embark in New York to stop in New London because it's so close.
Nine cruise ships visited in 2008 and seven came in 2007. The last arrived in 2010.
Miller said he introduced a similar bill last session. The state invests in so many different areas, including expanding the University of Connecticut and building a bus line from New Britain to Hartford, Miller said, but neglects the ports.
"We've got to start looking at things that pay off and things that don't, and start prioritizing," he added.