Archive for July 2012

“Cruise-ship battle not so one-sided”: a Dana Beach editorial in The State- “…(the cruise business is) one half of one percent of the (economic) impact of freight.”

The leaders of the state Chamber of Commerce and Manufacturers Alliance are vigorously defending the State Ports Authority’s effort to “aggressively pursue cruise line business” and spend $35 million in public funds on a new terminal to serve Carnival Cruise Lines, a Panama corporation that recently designated Charleston as a homeport for the Carnival  Fantasy.

In their July 22 column (“Cruise terminal essential to port’s future”), Otis Rawl and Lewis Gossett assert that the port needs to diversify “to remain competitive.” Well, diversify it has done. Between 2009 and 2012, cruise visits rose from 33 per year to more than 80. Meanwhile, freight volumes have plummeted. In 2000, Charleston was the fourth-busiest container port in the country; today it ranks ninth.

If a tripling of cruise ships has accompanied a precipitous decline in container volume, the Rawl/Gossett remedy is … more cruise traffic. Strange logic, indeed.

Rawl and Gossett praise the port for generating $7.1 billion in annual economic activity for the Charleston area, but they fail to acknowledge that even at maximum capacity, the cruise business will contribute only $37 million. That’s one half of one percent of the impact of freight. On this and other points, Rawl and Gossett should have reviewed the facts before they maligned Charleston residents who, they claim, “seek to stop” cruise industry development.

First, concerned residents have not attempted to stop cruise visits. Instead, for two and a half years we have asked for enforceable standards for cruise ships, like those every other business in Charleston or Columbia must abide by.

We have promoted a cap of 104 visits annually, a number the State Ports Authority has consistently stated is the market limit for Charleston. But when ports officials were asked to put the cap in writing, they refused. We also have sought a written agreement that ships will not discharge sewage closer than 12 miles from shore, a pledge the cruise lines have made repeatedly but, again, refuse to put in writing.

Today, cruise ships, burning dirty diesel fuel, run their engines constantly while in port. We have asked that they plug into shoreside power so they can turn their engines off while they are docked. Shoreside power is used extensively in cities with cruise traffic. But like every other request we’ve made, it was rejected by the Ports Authority and the city of Charleston.

Human health problems are not the only risk South Carolina faces from an uncontrolled cruise industry. The history of public investment in elaborate new cruise terminals reveals a trail of wasted taxpayer funds. Mobile, Ala., for example, constructed an expensive terminal for Carnival Cruise Lines. Seven years later, Carnival pulled out, leaving the city with a mountain of debt.

The most ridiculous aspect of Rawl’s and Gossett’s column is their accusation that Charleston’s cruise-control advocates have “harmful and sinister motives … to weaken the financial condition of the port so that it cannot effectively meet current customer demands or expand to meet the needs of future job creators,” and that legal challenges are merely “vehicles to meet the needs of selfish lawyers and self-proclaimed conservationists.” Rawl and Gossett also allege that concerned Charleston residents have benefited from the port and that “in their misguided, ill-intentioned methods, they would deny the same success to you.”

Who knew? Not since the days of Sen. Joseph McCarthy (“I have here in my hands a list …”) have we seen such a dark conspiracy. Presumably, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the World Monuments Fund share these same subversive motives, because both have placed Charleston on their “watch lists” due to the risks of uncontrolled cruise visitation.

With all of their chest-beating, Rawl and Gossett miss the most important point. The cruise debate has diverted time, energy and money away from the Ports Authority’s ability to carry out its core mission. Their persistence in promoting what port management describes as a small component of its overall business is a foolish indulgence when our state should be pulling together to promote real economic development.

Mr. Beach is executive director of the Coastal Conservation League; contact him at DanaBeach@scccl.org.

Breaking AP report: Cruise terminal permit delayed as state seeks additional information from ports- “Any delay is the fault of the State Ports Authority, which has, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, refused to recognize that cruise operations impact local citizens’ health and the integrity of Charleston’s economically vital historic area,” (Blan Holman, attorney representing the Southern Environmental Law Center said).

…The terminal is also a focus of suits in both state and federal court. Preservation groups, environmentalists and neighborhood residents sued in state court saying the cruises are a public nuisance causing congestion and pollution. A state judge, acting as a special referee for the South Carolina Supreme Court, heard arguments earlier this month on whether to dismiss that case. He has not issued his findings.

Also this month, environmental and preservation groups sued in federal court in Washington. That suit contends the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers unlawfully issued a permit allowing the State Ports Authority to classify the work as a maintenance project.

Blan Holman, an attorney representing the Southern Environmental Law Center who argued for the plaintiffs in the state lawsuit, said the request for more information shows that DHEC is doing its job.
Read entire article. 

“Better cruise emissions possible”- a P&C editorial today: “Those insisting that it is not necessary to institute enforceable restrictions on air emissions from cruise ships in Charleston could be leaning on a weak reed.”

“…Until it is sure that the regulations will stand and that the cruise industry will abide by them, people who live or work in the area of the passenger terminal should not get complacent.” Read entire editorial. 

“Cruise industry fights new pollution limits”- breaking news reported by Juliet Eilperin: “Everyday… the (Sapphire Princess)…will emit…as much soot as 1.06 million cars.”

Cruise industry fights new pollution limits
By Juliet Eilperin / The Washington Post

WHITTIER, Alaska — The gleaming white Sapphire Princess docked in this  deepwater port this month, unloading its passengers and taking on 2,600 more  guests headed first to Glacier Bay and eventually to Vancouver, British  Columbia. Every day of that trip, the cruise ship — whose website invites passengers to see Alaska’s “pristine landscapes” — will emit the same amount of  sulfur dioxide as 13.1 million cars, according to the Environmental Protection  Agency, and as much soot as 1.06 million cars.

“House Cleaning”- a letter by Carrie Agnew: “The exhaust emitted by the Fantasy is a proven carcinogen.”

House cleaning

I believe that a number of people misunderstood the point made in a July 3 article regarding the increased amount of soot/airborne particulate matter being experienced downtown as a result of Carnival Fantasy home-porting here.

The issue is that this is the air we are breathing.

The exhaust emitted by the Fantasy is a proven carcinogen. People are already experiencing bronchial and other health issues as a result.

The local and state medical associations have expressed deep concerns.

Soot from engines idling while in port is evidence of a health issue that alarms the S.C. Medical Association. Our “Soot Away” flags focus on this health issue.

Solutions are possible, but Carnival has not responded to repeated inquiries about living up to policies and practices it uses at other ports as described in its own Sustainability Report.

Unfortunately, the only way you can physically see these emissions is by swiping the black, greasy debris from a window sill or ceiling fan. The winds carry it and deposit it throughout the eastern portion of the downtown peninsula.

The soot does not, as some would like us to believe, just fall “straight down.” The breeze carries it across much of the Charleston area, and many people should be concerned — not simply those of us who live south of Calhoun Street. And it is not, as proven by testing, the same “dirt” caused by cars and trucks on the roads.

Just because we experience other forms of air pollution does not mean we shouldn’t control these air-borne emissions.

The problem can be resolved by using shoreside power — as is used, for example, in Juneau, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Brooklyn.

At what point is the health and well-being of tax-paying residents, business owners and workers trumped by the cost of being pro-active and having the cruise ships utilize shore power as they do in so many other, less residential and historically sensitive places?

Carrie Agnew, Executive Director
Charleston Communities for Cruise Control (C4)
Hasell Street
Charleston

A.D. Heathcock’s letter- “Tourism’s Toll”: “Each week, Carnival Cruise lines dumps 1,500-plus tourists who compete for sidewalk space with those staying in expensive hotels.”

Tourism’s toll

Those who advocated for unlimited tourism in the Charleston area are now seeing the results of that argument. Numbers really do matter. Folly Beach can accommodate a few beer drinkers, but I doubt that busloads of drunks were ever in anyone’s plan.

Each week, Carnival Cruise lines dumps 1,500-plus tourists who compete for sidewalk space with those staying in expensive hotels.

Unfortunately, you can’t control who comes to visit or how much they spend while they are here. Now, there’s no going back. A retreat from tourism would mean unoccupied hotels and restaurants and the resulting loss of employment opportunities.

When I first visited Charleston in the early ’60s I thought it was a terrible place to visit but probably would a great place to live. Perhaps the reverse is starting to happen.

The situation may resolve itself. As Yogi Berra once said about a St. Louis restaurant, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

A.D. Heathcock
Palisades Drive
Mount Pleasant

It’s About Control: a letter by David B. Hoffman

I was once again disappointed by Brian Hicks’ populist rant against
residents of “highfalutin” downtown and their quest for control of the cruise
industry.

I have lived and worked in downtown Charleston for 33 years and seen
the current renaissance of the city and all of the wonderful work that has made
Charleston what it is. The hard work of a lot of citizens has made this
happen.

I have also seen both the positive and negative effects of this
success and the associated influx of visitors. Brian Hicks simplifies the cruise
business argument to one vein — the “haves” don’t want the rest of the
population clogging their neighborhoods.

But he overlooks just how often residents already open these
neighborhoods as well as their residences.

There are spring and fall tours, special events such as the Bridge
Run, Turkey Day Run, Spoleto, Southeastern Wildlife, Wine & Food Festival,
Charleston Fashion Week — just to name a few.

Over the course of a year, innumerable events take place downtown,
all sponsored or supported by residents.

If Mr. Hicks wants to stroll down any downtown street, he is able to. And the reason he might want to do so is the neighborhood’s ambiance and history — neighborhood that was landscaped, restored and maintained by residents at considerable time and expense.

The issue is about control. The peninsula is a finite space, but many
feel that opportunities to put more visitors into the peninsula are endless.
Therefore the number of bodies and traffic need some control before the
peninsula is over-saturated and the quality of living disappears.

The cruise industry needs to be regulated as are all other
tourist-related businesses,

David B. Hoffman
Pitt Street, Charleston

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