In 2011, the State Ports Authority (SPA) has announced intentions to accommodate 104 cruise ship visits per year—a drastic increase from the previous pattern of cruise visits that were predominantly ports-of-call by vessels of smaller size and passenger capacity. We seek to gain awareness and understanding of the problems created in downtown Charleston by the recent tripling of cruise ship visits, the increasing size of these ships, and the home-porting of Carnival vessels that necessitates passengers driving or being driven downtown to embark and debark. The self-evident consequences resulting from more than a year of these visits are congestion from increased traffic and street closures; air pollution and soot from burning dirty fuels to power large ships in port which soil neighboring buildings and endanger health; threat of water pollution as ships can now legally discharge raw sewage within three miles of shore; noise from ship horns and PA systems; and visual impairment and degradation of “The Holy City’s” Colonial-era skyline. Most of all, we seek and propose equitable solutions to minimize these problems while protecting current and future jobs and economic benefits from regulated cruise operations:


  1. Make “Voluntary Limits” Recommended by SPA and City Legally Binding.
  2. The Union Pier terminal is currently planned to shift north from the end of Market Street to the end of Society Street. We believe all possible sites for a new cruise terminal should be studied, considering both positive and negative impacts, so the best option is selected.
  3. The cruise industry has degraded other communities, polluting their air and water, eroding local businesses and unraveling community fabric.  In just three years, the cruise industry tripled in Charleston – with no local control. Cruise lines break environmental laws.  Panamanian-based Carnival cruise lines pled guilty to pollution discharges and falsifying federal pollution records in 2002. Carnival is, literally, a convicted environmental felon – with enough toilets for 3,000 people.


The National Trust for Historic Preservation took the unprecedented step of putting Charleston on a “watch list” because of the danger posed by cruise operations to the Peninsula.  Industrial cruise congestion and pollution do not help our valuable historic tourist trade.

The City of Charleston doesn’t collect a dime for dockings.  Foreign cruise lines pay no taxes, yet use our roads, impact our neighborhoods, and pollute our environment.

The S.C. State Ports Authority has made “promises” to limit impacts – and then repeatedly broken them.  More promises from SPA (whose profits increase with more cruise industry) are worthless.

THE PORTS AUTHORITY’S BULLYING THREATS SPA’s Union Pier Scare Tactic.  Everyone knows that the 60 acres of publicly owned waterfront property at Union Pier is a derelict eyesore and has to be redeveloped.  And we all know it will be redeveloped – if SPA won’t do it, the citizens of South Carolina will make SPA sell it like it has done with numerous other holdings.  Confirming some local control over cruise operations will guide that development and ensure that it, like every other development in town, maintains a healthy balance.