Two SC state hearings were recently conducted
about the proposed new SPA Cruise Terminal at Union Pier.  Yet many otherwise
well-informed Charlestonians don’t realize the grave consequences that will
follow.  Below is an edited version of my comments submitted to the SC Office of
Ocean and Coastal Management.  These are the facts and opinions that everyone
who cares about Charleston should know.

It will be worth the three minutes it may take
you to read this.  You will learn that his grave threat is not only unnecessary,
it’s manufactured.  The terrible consequences, though, will be real.



The proposed 100,000 sq. ft. cruise terminal for Union Pier–the only site
that was ever considered by the SC State Ports Authority (SPA)–would, if permitted,
deal a devastating environmental, visual, economic, cultural, and historic blow to the
City of Charleston.  The blow, as cruise ships grow ever-larger under
post-Panamex (after a new, wider Panama Canal) conditions, all of which could be
accommodated by the excessively long existing 1800′ pier at Union Pier, would be
fatal to Charleston’s historic charm and it’s continued ability to draw almost 5
million visitors a year to see its historic, homes, gardens and buildings.  Do
we need more examples of the damage cruise ships do to cities beyond Venice,
Italy; Key West, Florida; Hamilton, Bermuda; and Dubrovnik, Croatia?(1)
If ever a certain disaster could be avoided, this would be it–yet because of the vast
financial resources of the SPA, a public-private entity only loosely controlled
by the SC State Legislature, residents, national and local historic and
environmental organizations, and common sense have all been pushed aside.



First – The SPA never conducted a cruise terminal location study.  The SPA
was also never honest with the citizens of Charleston about discussing the location of the
cruise terminal or potential alternate locations.(2)  Contrary to the mandate that
the SPA operates under to be financially and environmentally responsible, the
SPA never conducted a study to find the best possible site for a cruise terminal
in Charleston.  The SPA has repeatedly been asked for such as study and has not
produced one, the SPA has repeatedly refused to comply with requests for
information under the Freedom of Information Act, and the SPA has repeatedly
mischaracterized its meeting and “citizen input” process as being more than it
was, and has even stooped to planting pro-terminal letters to the editor in the
newspaper.  At one such “input session” conducted by the SPA at the existing
terminal, I repeatedly tried to bring up questions about other locations, why
was the Union Pier location chosen, why if this was supposed to be a “one berth”
cruise terminal, was the pier to be left at 1800 feet.  All those questions were
rejected, and two different moderators (we had broken up into 6 or 7 smaller
groups) told me that these input sessions were only to discuss the “design of
the terminal building,” not the location of the building–that, obviously, was a
forgone conclusion.(3)  I have written a blog on why the cruise terminal
should be moved (4) and an op-ed in the Post and Courier about that adds to
those reasons and suggests alternative sites(5).

Second –
Thrusting a cruise terminal into downtown Charleston is not only unnecessary,
the evidence from other port cities demonstrates the immense damage such a
terminal would inflict on the peninsula.  The damage to other cities that have
cruise terminals downtown or near historic areas has been devastating as
continued congestion, confusion, traffic, noise, air and water pollution and
other environmental, culture and historic degradation have increased over time,
often completely altering the original culture and atmosphere of those historic
cities, reducing their quality of life.   I need not tell you that the World
Monuments’ Fund, Charleston’s Preservation Society, the Historic Charleston
Foundation, The Charlestowne and Ansonborough Neighborhood Assns., the Coastal
Conservation League, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, among
others, either opposes the cruise terminal location at Union Pier or favors
strictly regulating cruise ships.  Why do these organizations oppose a giant
cruise terminal downtown–or one without regulations?(6)   Because we cannot build
300-year-old cities any longer; we cannot recreate 300-year-old buildings,
houses, churches, gardens and our Colonial-era skyline if it is damaged or
compromised.  Once the historic charm of Hamilton, Bermuda was destroyed, what
can bring it back?  What can return Key West to its former “edge of the earth,”
relaxed history?  We cannot isolate or protect Charleston’s historic
neighborhoods from a cruise terminal–with the potential for ever-expanding
capacity–wedged in next door.

Third –
The option of “regulating” cruise ships is a phony option.  No such option
exists.  Yet some well-meaning organizations propose regulating cruise ships.
Even the SPA, in an effort to quiet opposition, proposed to limit cruise ships
to under 3,500 passengers (yet that would likely include 1500 crew, or 5000
people–hardly a small impact), no more than two visits per week (yet as most
ships do not visit during the height of winter or summer, that would mean far
more ships per week in peak season), and no more than 104 ships per year.  But
the SPA refuses to legally commit to even these high limits–in fact, James
Newsome, the CEO of the SPA, defiantly wrote in an email to this writer (and
many others) that he would not permit his port operations to be limited by
anyone.  No one seems to be paying attention to the bullying and intransigent
stand of the SPA.(3, 7)  But it gets worse.  Charleston’s Mayor Riley has
refused to restrict cruise ship activity, alternately saying that the SPA is
“our friend” and doesn’t need restrictions or limitations before saying that he
doesn’t have the power to limit cruise ship activity.(8)  Lawsuits have been filed to
restrict the size, height and noise of cruise ships, but the results/decisions
from those lawsuits are still unknown.  The reality is that the cruise ship
industry is run by a cabal of foreign owned entities; together they have a
combined annual revenue of over $30 billion.  Carnival alone has an annual
revenue of over $15 billion–no city, no city council, no one can stand in the
way of that kind of financial clout.  Charleston will decline and fall as other
small historic cities have in the wake of cruise ship tourism.

Fourth –
Cruise ship tourism will destroy the golden goose of historic tourism that is
the economic driver for all of South Carolina.  More important than the revenues
from the Port of Charleston is the spending from the five million annual
visitors who come to Charleston and eat, shop, visit museums and attractions,
and stay.  The SPA put out a survey, done by two College of Charleston
professors, that projected revenues from the cruise terminal at $37 million
annually–a fictional number that since has been totally discredited by a real
study–an analysis of actual cruise operations and visitors–by Miley and
Associates and paid for by the Historic Charleston Foundation.
What did that study conclude?(9)
That cruise tourists spend an average of only $66 per day–vs. $718 per day for
traditional Charleston tourists.  Why the difference?  Because tourists to
Charleston’s home-ported ship, the Carnival “Fantasy,” are budget travelers who
are coming not to visit Charleston–but to get on their ship, have fun on board
and sail the Caribbean.  The “Fantasy” is called a “fun ship,” not the history
ship, and the goal of Carnival, as with every cruise line, is to capture as much
revenue from each passenger by charging extras for excursions, for spa
treatments, for upscale restaurants, for restricted pools, for drinks, for
special shows, in the casinos and a host of other amenities and attractions as
they can.  That captured revenue is spent with Carnival or other cruise lines,
not in Charleston.  One researcher I spoke with called cruise ships “the strip
mine of tourism.”  In addition, the study found that these travelers were
staying in the cheaper N. Charleston hotels, not in Charleston, as their goal
was to get to their pre-paid cruise as soon as possible, and the N. Charleston
budget hotels also provided free weekly parking and a shuttle to the cruise
ship.  Another key thing the original SPA study totally ignored–the costs of
cruise ship tourism:  the need for extra police, the need to block off streets,
the inconvenience to businesses and residents, the cost of litter and trash
clean-up, etc.  One thing is clear, the cost of cruise ship tourism for the City
of Charleston–if the terminal remains at Union Pier–will be far greater than
the benefits.(10)
The Miley study concluded that another premise of the SPA study, that cruise
ships would be provisioned locally helping local farmers, etc., was also false.
The ships are provisioned out of Carnival’s huge headquarters in Florida.
Worse again is that the new Miley and Associates study showed that cruise ship
tourists can have a deleterious impact on traditional and upscale tourists (and
potential homeowners alike)–driving them to other cities and towns where they
don’t have to put up with cruise tourists.(11, 12)



The objections of the SPA, the Longshoremen’s Union, and the Mayor about
relocating the proposed terminal to another location are nonsensical.  The first such
mantra, complete with signs and buttons that said “Jobs not Snobs” that were
featured at the Physician’s Hall meeting in May, 2011, came from the
Longshoremen and SPA sympathizers.  Please.  If the terminal were located at the
Columbus Street Terminal (CST) or at the Navy Yard, those same jobs would still
exist, just in a slightly different location.(13)  Not only would no jobs be
lost, but as residents would have less reason to demand restrictions on ships
farther away from the sensitive historic district, it is logical to say that
jobs would likely increase if the terminal were moved.   Another argument,
“Charleston has been a port city for 300 years, so…” is equally ridiculous.
Charleston will still be a port city if the terminal were moved north or across
to Patriot’s Point.  But the ships that we have coming into Charleston today
ain’t British ships-of-the-line or pilot sailing boats like “the Spirit of South
Carolina,” they are huge cruise and cargo ships that can barely make it under
the 176′ high Ravenel Bridge–they do not belong in historic downtown, and there
are better, roomier and safer places for them farther north, beginning at
CST.(14)  Then most recently, the new head of Maritime Association admitted,
perhaps unwittingly, that a cruise terminal also serves as a border crossing,
limited by federal restrictions and regulations, and likely the entrance point for guns,
weapons, and other contraband.(15).  Perhaps she didn’t realize it as she wrote it, but
she was giving us yet another potent argument for moving this terminal away from
the densely populated areas of Charleston.  There are other obvious
arguments–including requiring shore side power in the wake of toxic ship soot
and pollution in port, yet the SPA summarily rejected this idea, too.  Shore
side power must be a requirement for a Charleston cruise terminal no matter
where it’s located.  Nor will I reference the unsightly view that a towering
cruise ship imposes over the skyline of an historic city like Charleston–
destroying the ambiance and historic context for both residents and
tourists who might otherwise have enjoyed Charleston in much the way it was
years ago.  Cruise terminals are often located far from cities or in industrial
areas of cities where their presence does not detract from the quality of life
in that city, where they can be adequately provisioned and fueled without
disturbing residents and businesses, and where the safety and security of all
can be ensured.  The historic cities of Boston and Philadelphia, that have
located their terminals well away from their historic downtowns, have proven
that this arrangement benefits all concerned.  The arguments the SPA, the mayor
and the longshoremen have against moving the terminal farther from the city are


THE SOLUTION AND CONCLUSION–the essence of my concluding comments to
SC Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management:

You know that the SPA did not address the concerns of the board even after its second
presentation.  You know that the cruise terminal, if permitted at Union Pier,
will create an airport-like environment that will grow and grow, impinging on
the city and destroying its charm and character as all attempts to regulate it
and the SPA continue to fail.  You know that jobs and cruise ship revenues would
be just as great if the terminal were moved away from downtown, in spite of
specious objections from the proponents.  You know that Charleston is a truly
unique city, home to the single longest unbroken row of Colonial-era houses in
America, many historic churches and buildings, and an irreplaceable charm of its
homes and gardens.  You know that the modern cruise industry is growing at 6% or
more annually–even in these near-recessionary times–and that this is an
industry that is relatively new, created in the mid-l970’s, and that the damage
that this industry has done to historic cities elsewhere has been horrific,
permanent and is continuing.  You know that if the terminal were only moved as
far north as the Columbus Street Terminal that with its 155 acres, with the
ability to create easy access off Morrison Drive at the north end of that
terminal, all traffic could be diverted from East Bay Street and would not
impact either Ansonborough or the East Side; you know that this would be a far
superior location for all concerned than Union Pier.  In spite of the
protestations to the contrary, both BMW (which was moved there by the SPA simply
to prevent the cruise terminal from being co-located there) and the cruise
terminal could co-exist on that property as the cruise terminal and the parking
it proposes would only require 20-25 acres.  You know that these cruise ships
will cause environmental damage–you saw the pictures of the Carnival-owned
“Costa Concordia” on its side in Italy, so you know it can and will happen.
It’s just a question of where.  You know that this terminal is a border, with
all its attendant problems.  You know that if permitted at the Union Pier
location, it will continue to cause traffic and other congestion, cost and
damage for Charleston residents.  You know that the tourists who want to go on a
cruise vacation aren’t interested in coming to Charleston–at least on that
particular trip–and that they otherwise could come anytime they wanted, if they
so wanted.  You know moving this terminal and standing up to the SPA is the
right thing to do.(17)

I just hope you do the right thing.

Respectfully submitted,

Jay Williams, Jr.

10 Oct 12

1)  The Menace of Venice, Campaigners picket cruise ship…  – Daily Mail
2)  Groundhog Day – Jay Williams blog
3)  The SPA’s “Defiant”  – Jay Williams blog
4)  7 Reasons Why the SPA’s proposed cruise terminal must be moved – Jay Williams blog
5)  Let facts steer local cruise terminal debate…  –  Post and Courier, Jay Williams
6)  What Makes Charleston Charleston – Charleston Currents – Jay Williams
7)  Calling on Carnival – Jay Williams blog
8)  The Mayor’s Fiction – Jay Williams blog
9)  A Tale of Two Studies –  Jay Williams blog
10)  Waves of Criticism   –  Jay Williams blog
11)  A response to Cruise Critics miss the boat – Jay Williams Blog
12)  Ain’t no Sunshine – Jay Williams blog
13)  Mythmaking – Jay Williams blog
14)  The Future Isn’t what it used to be – Charleston Mercury – Jay Williams
15)  Let facts steer local cruise terminal debate….  Post and Courier – Jay Williams
16)  A Broken Vision – Jay Williams blog
17)  Reasonable cruise regulations should be more than a dream – Post and Courier – Jay Williams