Archive for December 2011

Read “SPA should extend its fair-study criteria to cruise terminal” in today’s P&C-

Read “SPA should extend its fair-study criteria to cruise terminal”
a commentary by Randy Pelzer in today’s P&C.

SPA should extend its fair-study criteria to cruise terminal
Post and Courier, December 28, 2011, Commentary

The State Ports Authority is campaigning for the federal government to study the relative merits of all Southeastern ports (particularly Charleston vs. Savannah) regarding post-Panamax dredging. Yet the SPA has conducted no such study in choosing the site for a new cruise terminal in Charleston.

Instead of studying all six area terminals to determine the economic and environmental impacts of a passenger terminal, the SPA effectively disregarded all but Union Pier. That site defies common logic:

1) It goes against the normal practice of building modern cruise terminals away from residential areas;

2) It ignores damage to human health, property, quality of life and heritage tourism as addressed publicly by doctors, residents and the hotel and real estate industries.

The SPA is correct that there should be a merit-based study by the federal government to determine the best site for dredging. But the SPA should practice what it preaches.

The SPA also has challenged the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s nod to Georgia’s dredging plan on the grounds that it doesn’t protect fish sufficiently. However, the SPA has refused to protect Charlestonians from air pollution from docked cruise ships. Shore power works and costs a few million dollars.

The neighborhood associations (Ansonborough and Charlestowne) most impacted by traffic congestion, soot, noise and skyline impairment by cruise ships have asked for a merit-based study and steps to mitigate the negative environmental impact of cruise operations. If such a study makes sense for dredging, it makes sense for the cruise terminal.

Why didn’t the SPA consider the northern end of the Columbus Street Terminal (CST) near the Ravenel bridge as a site? It is farther from densely populated and visited areas. In our opinion, a merit-based study of CST would show:

1) All waterfront and tourism jobs would be preserved and two times more jobs created and tax revenues collected from redeveloping the entire Union Pier site at its highest and best use, and redeveloping depressed property near the Morrison Drive entrance to CST;

2) A cruise terminal and large warehouse on about 10 percent of CST’s 155 acres would not impede cargo operations;

3) SPA’s core cargo operations would not be affected. It operates at only 50 percent of its container capacity in Charleston and has the ability to expand that capacity by 50 percent upon completion of the old Navy base terminal;

4) Greater financial exposure would be risked by devoting the valuable Union Pier site to a one-use cruise facility than locating it at CST where it could be reused for cargo. Just this year Carnival abandoned Mobile and San Diego soon after expensive cruise terminals were built; and just this month, Carnival dropped cruises to Bermuda with little notice.

A study of cruise sites could start with the forthcoming study commissioned by the Historic Charleston Foundation to measure objectively community costs and benefits related to cruises.

Legislators representing the historic district (Sen. Chip Campsen and Rep. Chip Limehouse), and preservation and conservation organizations have reasonably asked the SPA to study alternative terminal sites and to impose legal limitations on cruise operations in the historic district.

A merit-based study is right for dredging issue. And it is right for the SPA cruise terminal.

Randy Pelzer
Charlestowne Neighborhood Association Cruise Ship Task Force
Broad Street
Charleston

 

‘Port Opponents’ List a ‘Port Enemies’ List?- an article published in THE NERVE-

‘Port Opponents’ List a ‘Port Enemies’ List?

Posted on November 7, 2011 by Eric K. Ward    

 

More than two dozen Charleston-area businesses have been targeted in an anonymous negative publicity campaign apparently stemming from a long-running struggle in the port city over how to handle its growing cruise ship industry.

The names of the targeted businesses, including some of Charleston’s most popular restaurants and attractions, are featured on a nondescript list labeling them opponents of the Port of Charleston.

The S.C. State Ports Authority, a state agency with broad operating powers, owns and runs the harbor.

The “port opponents” list has been posted in various hospitality businesses in Charleston and circulated throughout the commercial port community, according to port officials and other sources.

Those port officials readily acknowledge the existence of the list and that it has been distributed to and fro. The officials say, however, that they do not know who’s behind the bulletin or who has disseminated it.

John Hassell, vice chairman of the Ports Authority board, says he has seen the list. “Yeah, it’s real,” Hassell says.

The “port opponents” list isn’t exactly on the level of 1950s McCarthyism, when former U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy, a Republican from Wisconsin, provoked mass hysteria in making unsubstantiated claims that he possessed a list of communists working in the State Department and other realms of the federal government.

Still, some observers see parallels between the two.

“It’s like McCarthy,” says Dana Beach, founder and director of the Coastal Conservation League. “I mean they’re waving this (port) enemies list.”

The Coastal Conservation League is party to a lawsuit challenging the operations of Carnival Cruise Lines in Charleston.

The list contains no identifying information as to who created it, who circulated it and who posted it in certain businesses. It’s just a barebones, 8.5-by-11 sheet of paper that says “PORT OPPONENTS,” with 18 names under “RESTAURANTS,” five names under “HOTELS” and four names under “ATTRACTIONS.”

More and larger cruise ships docking in Charleston appears to be the source of the controversy.

“Increasingly, our ability to flaunt our fair city to home buyers is frustrated by the recent influx of cruise ships,” Thomas Bennett of Carriage Properties writes in a letter to the editor published March 2 in the Charleston Post and Courier.

“These gargantuan ships puffing black exhaust and bellowing horns stand in stark contrast to the distinctive properties we are selling. Traffic is snarled and views of the harbor are blocked.”

Continuing, the letter says, “Twice a week, sometimes more, we must avoid the waterfront, when it is the very place our clients are clamoring to see. Yes, Charleston has accommodated cruise ships for decades, but never at such a high frequency, and certainly not at the immense scale now standard for modern cruise ships today.”

Several other Realtors put their names on the letter, too.

Likewise, a group of hospitality businesspeople penned a column expressing similar concerns in the Post and Courier in April.

A key worry among business, neighborhood, historic and environmental groups in Charleston is how far out to sea cruise ships dump sewage, and whether the nasty stuff washes ashore.

The concerned parties say they recognize and appreciate the economic impact of the Charleston port and do not aim to shut down the cruise ship industry.

Rather, they say they simply want the city to put some reasonable standards on cruise ships, such as limiting the vessels to one at a time and two per week, or 104 per year, in the Charleston harbor.

They also seek a guarantee that the ships will not dump sewage closer than 12 miles to shore.

An open letter to the Ports Authority board posted on a website advocating cruise standards for Charleston makes this case. Forty-six people, many of them representing businesses, community groups or government entities, have attached their names to the letter.

Several of the companies affiliated with that letter are on the “port opponents” list.

Thus far, Charleston City Council has resisted calls to regulate cruise ships, with Mayor Joe Riley arguing that the city lacks the authority to do so.

Instead, the council in September adopted an ordinance setting up a process to “engage the community” at least one year ahead of any plans for cruise traffic to be increased.

Although the groups and individuals concerned about cruise ships openly acknowledge the economic importance of the port, the list makes no such distinction.

Neither do the port officials interviewed for this story who know about the list.

“I’ve seen that circulated,” Ports Authority spokesman Byron Miller says.

So who’s behind it?

“I don’t know,” Miller says. “I know that there are certain people here locally who have aligned themselves with anti-business, anti-job growth initiatives.”

He describes the list as “sort of a word-of-mouth thing” that’s “constantly growing, quite frankly … because there are local businesses that are opposed to the port and its mission.”

But why?

“Don’t know,” Miller says, “can’t answer the question.”

Regardless, people have a right to avoid patronizing such businesses, Miller says.

Hassell, the Ports Authority vice chairman, sounds a similar theme. He says the message of the list to the commercial port community is “these businesses are not supportive of your businesses and your jobs.”

Asked whether the “port opponents” have concerns about cruise ships or the port in general, Hassell says, “I think the general impression is they oppose (port) operations in general.”

So what do they want to do, shut it down?

“Sure,” he says.

Seriously, they want to shut down the port – or perhaps privatize it?

“It’s the latter, I think,” says Hassell, a former interim president of the Ports Authority who now works full time as head of the Maritime Association of South Carolina, a Port of Charleston advocacy group.

Two people whose companies are on the list say it totally misrepresents their position.

“The shameful thing about that is I’m not against the port or the actions that they’re conducting down there,” says Randall Goldman, managing partner and CEO of three of the four attractions on the list.

To the contrary, the port is one of the biggest economic engines in the state, Goldman says. And he says he is all for tourism and the business it creates. But Goldman says what does concern him is Charleston getting choked and degraded by too much cruise traffic.

Goldman says the list is “very unfortunate” in the sluggish economy. “In this economy it’s kind of like a bad restaurant review,” he says. “Let’s let the market dictate who stays in business.”

Steven Dopp, part owner of a hotel on the list, put his name on the open letter supporting cruise ship standards in Charleston.

The letter says those who have signed it support the Ports Authority’s role in the state’s economy. “Clearly these people are not port opponents,” Dopp says.

C4 proposes a “CHARLESTON CODE OF CRUISE SHIP CONDUCT”. (Also found on Code of Conduct page.)

C4’s Proposed

CHARLESTON CODE OF CRUISE SHIP CONDUCT

 

The Charleston Tourism Ordinance states that the purpose of tourism regulation is “to maintain, protect and promote the tourism industry and economy of the city and, at the same time, to maintain and protect the tax base and land values of the city, to reduce unnecessary traffic and pollution and to maintain and promote aesthetic charm and the quality of life for the residents of the city.” 

 

Cruise lines must realize that in Charleston their cruise ships docking at Union Pier literally sit at the doorstep of residential neighborhoods and significant historic districts.  These neighborhoods and communities deserve to have all visiting cruise ships adhere to the following standards:

 

1.  Cruise ships should respect the traditional height, mass and scale standards of the city.  No ships with passenger and crew capacity above 3,000 should regularly visit the city.

 

2. Cruise ships add to congestion, pollution and visual obstruction.   There should be no more than two cruise ships in Charleston during a single week.

 

3. Charleston is an old city and the air quality impacts not only those living and visiting, but also the buildings themselves. Ships running hotelling engines constantly while in port should connect to onshore power or, if onshore power is not available, should burn low sulfur fuel and request that onshore power be made available to them.

 

4. Charleston waters deserve respectful treatment.  Cruise ships should not discharge gray water or black water or incinerate garbage within twelve miles of shore.

 

5. Residents of the peninsula area are sensitive to loud noise because it reverberates between buildings.  Cruise ships should avoid making external announcements and playing music via external speakers while in port.  Cruise ships should not use horns or PA systems more than required by International Maritime Organization safety.

 

6. Cruise lines are not currently required to pay accommodation or passenger taxes in Charleston unlike other port cities. Cruise lines should voluntarily pay an impact fee of $5 per passenger into a fund for community improvement as a show of respect and appreciation for the maintenance required for upkeep.

 

7.  Cruise ships should support the local Charleston/South Carolina economy by purchasing provisions from local vendors.

 

8. Trust, but verify.  Cruise lines should provide quarterly data about fuel used, discharges made and local purchasing to allow measurement against these standards.

 

Read “Cruise terminal should be equipped with onshore power” in today’s P&C-

Read “Cruise terminal should be equipped with onshore power”
a commentary by Gil Baldwin, M.D. in today’s P&C.

Cruise terminal should be equipped with onshore power
The Post and Courier, December 6, 2011, Commentary

There has been a great deal of discussion, both pro and con, about the cruise ship industry in downtown Charleston.

As a physician who practiced medicine here for 38 years, I would like to address the facts of cruise ship air pollution, its impact on citizens, tourists and dockworkers, and finally question why our State Ports Authority (SPA) has so far refused to include onshore power in its plan for the new terminal.

The American Lung Association’s president and CEO, retired U.S. Navy Capt. Charles D. Connor, paints a detailed picture, stating he “saw firsthand the staggering amounts of pollution” from cruise ships during his waterborne career.

He reminds us that cruise ships “spew tons of soot and smog-forming pollutants.”

“Communities near ports tend to suffer from a high burden of pollution, triggering asthma attacks and a variety of respiratory diseases, sending those who suffer from chronic lung conditions to the hospital and the emergency rooms.

These pollutants cause thousands of premature deaths across the United States every year.”

Cruise ship pollution is unhealthy for anyone who works or lives near it. As a retired physician, the negative health effects on Charleston’s population are a major concern to me.

I am puzzled. The SPA does not seem concerned about the longshoremen spending time near potentially cancer-causing pollutants. These workers need their jobs, but why continue to endanger their health instead of addressing the soot filling their lungs?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determined that establishing an Emission Control Area in North America, which requires the use of low-sulfur fuel within 200 miles of our coast, could save our country $47 billion to $110 billion in health care costs by the year 2020.

Estimates include reductions of thousands of instances of premature mortality, chronic and acute bronchitis, hospital admissions, and emergency room visits.

The Cruise Lines Industry Association (CLIA) actively opposes the use of cleaner fuel, but they do support the use of onshore power. Carnival Cruise Lines is also willing to push onshore power as it is more cost-effective for them than to pay for the cleaner, yet more expensive fuel. Our port is understandably interested in keeping Carnival satisfied. Consequently, there should be no opposition to onshore power.

Charleston can protect its own by having the foresight to require that the SPA install plug-in capability. With an additional investment in onshore power, our city would join the ranks of responsible port communities.

If many other ports around the world use onshore power, why can’t, or more importantly, shouldn’t Charleston?

This is not a “new technology,” as the SPA keeps telling the public — the U.S. Navy has used it for over 50 years.

Investing $35 million in public funds for a new cruise terminal certainly should include onshore power to protect all of Charleston from air pollution, as we welcome cruise passengers to our beautiful, historic city.

J. Gilbert Baldwin Jr., M.D.
Hasell Street
Charleston

Dr. Baldwin received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. His post-graduate training in internal medicine and hematology was completed at the Medical University of South Carolina. He practiced in Charleston for 38 years, in addition to serving in the U.S. Army Medical Command in Europe and in Operation Desert Storm.

 

 

Read “SPA unfair”- a letter to the editor from Laurens Street resident in today’s P&C

SPA unfair
The Post and Courier
, December 6, 2011, letter to the editor

I am writing as one of approximately 50 homeowners who will be greatly affected by the proposed State Ports Authority cruise terminal. Our homes, in Anson House and Laurens Place, face directly and are in immediate proximity (about 100 yards) to the proposed terminal. Ships’ smokestacks will be as close as 150 feet from the nearest homes.

It seems entirely unreasonable that the SPA has refused even to consider any site other than this one, when the health and livability of so many residential homeowners and their families are being put in jeopardy. When we recently stood on our piazza watching the Fantasy depart, the noxious fumes from the ship were so strong that they made our throats hurt, to the point that we had to retreat inside.

We read with dismay the Nov. 26 op-ed about the SPA’s tactics. It is galling that the SPA, a public agency, has hired a public-relations firm, which then makes unfounded allegations, obviously with SPA approval, against all the taxpaying citizens who have expressed concerns about unregulated cruise ship operations.

It is unconscionable that the SPA and its public-relations firm continue to play the “snob” card against concerned citizens who have repeatedly made clear that they do not oppose cruise ships nor any other port business but do expect that SPA be regulated to protect livability and the health of Charleston’s citizens. It is equally disturbing to note that SPA managers receive sizable monetary bonuses based on the SPA’s growth. According to its own web site, the SPA “operates for the public’s benefit,” and yet its leaders have a personal, self-serving interest in advocating for growth in operations.

When growth trumps every other consideration, isn’t this a conflict of interest? Shouldn’t the SPA have been willing to fairly consider all possible sites along the Cooper River for its terminal?

Is it appropriate that a public agency disparage citizens who have with integrity raised legitimate questions about important issues of public health and livability?

Tommie Robertson
Laurens Street
Charleston