Why not shore-side power?, Post and Courier, March 8, 2012, editorial.

Cruise ship cheerleaders have labeled as misguided “snobs” those citizens who want cruise ships to be regulated in Charleston. They suggested that port jobs were being threatened.

The State Ports Authority and the City of Charleston have ignored or refused requests for enforceable limits on the number and size of cruise ships that visit Charleston and on the air emissions those ships produce.

Even Charleston City Council, elected to serve the best interests of citizens, shrugged its collective shoulders when asked to place such limits on cruise ships.

It will be interesting to see if City Council and the SPA revisit the issue if asked by the S.C. Medical Association. As noted by Dr. Stephen I. Schabel on our Commentary page, the SCMA is considering such a request. It would ask that the city of Charleston, the State Ports Authority, Carnival Cruise Lines and the S.C. General Assembly join with the Charleston County Medical Society and the SCMA “to enact forceable requirements for cruise ship use of onshore power rather than engine power while dockside.”

It is a reasonable and appropriate request. Dr. Schabel refers to ports as places at high risk for particulate emissions that are harmful to people’s health. Cruise ships, he says, spew four times the air emissions than cargo ships. While in port, they must keep air conditioning and lights on, so they keep their engines running.

But ports can — and many do — provide ships with access to electric shore-side power so they can turn off their engines and still operate. Those that do include Juneau, Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles and Vancouver, Canada. Some have formed partnerships with utilities and municipalities to cover the cost of installing the shore-side power. Using it requires upfitting cruise ships too, but it costs less to use than running engines, and there are grants available to help cruise lines pay for the conversion.

Some issues are debatable. But the benefits of shore-side power are not: better air quality, fewer emissions that can damage people’s health, no odor and no noise.

The SPA and the City of Charleston might think those who want shore-side power are simply misguided, maybe even snobs, but scientific data say differently.

The people who live, work and visit Charleston deserve a break from cruise ships’ risky air emissions.


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