Archive for August 2013

Judge schedules arguments on Charleston cruise case for September

CHARLESTON, S.C. — A federal judge wants to hear attorneys argue why a challenge to a $35 million South Carolina cruise terminal should be settled without a trial.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel has scheduled arguments for Sept. 12 in the ongoing dispute over a federal permit for the terminal proposed for the Charleston waterfront.

 

The pilings are needed to transform an old warehouse into a new cruise terminal for the city’s expanded cruise industry.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs said in court documents that allowing the warehouse to be used for a cruise terminal is a different and more extensive use than permitted in the past so. They said that means more review is needed under the law. They want the judge to void the permit and block the Corps from allowing any construction without more extensive studies.

Attorneys for the Corps have said the permit is not for a terminal, but only for installing five clusters of pilings beneath a structure that already is permitted for maritime uses.

Both sides have asked Gergel to rule in their favor without trial.

The judge has asked attorneys for both sides to come to next month’s hearing prepared to discuss the issues that would be taken up later if he rules a full trial is needed. A November court date has tentatively been set if the case goes to trial.

The case is one of three legal challenges to the terminal and the city’s expanded cruise industry.

A case before the state Supreme Court contends the cruises are a public nuisance and violate city zoning ordinances. Preservation and environmental groups have sued Carnival Cruise Lines seeking to block cruise operations and have the court declare it illegal to build the terminal.

The third case challenges a state permit issued for the pilings. That goes before a state administrative law judge early next year.

Three years ago, Carnival Cruise Lines permanently based its 2,056-passenger liner Fantasy in Charleston, giving the city a year-round cruise industry. Before that, cruise lines made port calls, but no ships were based in the city.

 

BY BRUCE SMITH  Associated Press

Federal judge sets arguments on challenge to Charleston cruise terminal

Associated Press

Bruce Smith, The Associated Press August 16, 2013 12:43 PM

CHARLESTON, S.C. – A federal judge wants to hear attorneys argue why a challenge to a $35 million South Carolina cruise terminal should be settled without a trial.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel has scheduled arguments for Sept. 12 in the ongoing dispute over a federal permit for the terminal proposed for the Charleston waterfront.

Environmental and neighbourhood groups have sued. They say the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should have more extensively studied the impact on the environment and the city’s historic district before issuing a permit allowing the South Carolina State Ports Authority to put additional pilings under a wharf.

The pilings are needed to transform an old warehouse into a new cruise terminal for the city’s expanded cruise industry.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs said in court documents that allowing the warehouse to be used for a cruise terminal is a different and more extensive use than permitted in the past so. They said that means more review is needed under the law. They want the judge to void the permit and block the Corps from allowing any construction without more extensive studies.

Attorneys for the Corps have said the permit is not for a terminal, but only for installing five clusters of pilings beneath a structure that already is permitted for maritime uses.

Both sides have asked Gergel to rule in their favour without trial.

The judge has asked attorneys for both sides to come to next month’s hearing prepared to discuss the issues that would be taken up later if he rules a full trial is needed. A November court date has tentatively been set if the case goes to trial.

The case is one of three legal challenges to the terminal and the city’s expanded cruise industry.

A case before the state Supreme Court contends the cruises are a public nuisance and violate city zoning ordinances. Preservation and environmental groups have sued Carnival Cruise Lines seeking to block cruise operations and have the court declare it illegal to build the terminal.

The third case challenges a state permit issued for the pilings. That goes before a state administrative law judge early next year.

Three years ago, Carnival Cruise Lines permanently based its 2,056-passenger liner Fantasy in Charleston, giving the city a year-round cruise industry. Before that, cruise lines made port calls, but no ships were based in the city.

Once again, the cruise lines want us to “just trust” them….

What the Cruise Industry Isn’t Telling You: Crime Stats Explored by Peter Greenburg

The cruise lines would like to be complemented for voluntarily releasing their crime statistics. The problem is that their figures are not produced by an independent authority with free access to all files. The figures are prepared by the cruise line itself, which has an interest in minimizing the appearance of crime.

Take for example: cruise lines have chosen to report assaults with serious bodily injury, but do not report simple assault, yet simple assaults occurred 11 times more frequently than assault with serious bodily injury on Royal Caribbean ships in 2007-08.Similarly, cruise lines have chosen to report thefts of over $10,000, but not thefts of lesser amounts – in 2007-08 the number of thefts on Carnival Cruise Lines’ ships were 24 times higher than the number of thefts over $10,000. By avoiding these categories (and others), the cruise lines mislead the consumer into believing crime is less prevalent than it is.

It isn’t only a matter of the categories under which they report data. What about the data they do report. It is illuminating to compare the number of crimes reported on a cruise line’s website and the number reported for the same crime by the FBI to the Senate Commerce Committee. For example, the FBI says it received 40 reports of sexual assault on Carnival ships, but Carnival reports on its website a total of 17. Why would the company report to the FBI more crimes under this category than they report on the voluntary disclosure spreadsheet on their website. There are discrepancies, not as stark, with other cruise lines.

There are other ways cruise lines attempt to minimize their crime statistics. There are known crime events that have been reported in the media that appear to be not included in cruise line online reports. Also, cruise corporations combine cruise lines in order to dilute the rate of crime on ships. For example, Carnival combines four cruise lines – Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Seabourn Cruises – and then computes the crime rate. But this creates misleading statistics. Carnival Cruise Lines accounts for 46 percent of the passengers population on ships belonging to these four brands, however in 2007-08 Carnival Cruise Lines accounted for 87 percent of the sexual assaults and 96 percent of the thefts. The rate of crime is significantly lower on the other cruise lines than on Carnival Cruise Lines; by averaging across the lines it gives the appearance that Carnival is safer than it actually is.

NINTH Letter to Carnival Regarding Our Very Real Concerns

With a new CEO heading up Carnival Corp., C4 continues to hope for a response to our efforts to obtain a response to some of our very real concerns

July 23, 2013

Mr. Arnold W. Donald
CEO
Carnival Corporation
3655 N.W. 87th Avenue
Miami, FL  33178-2428

Dear Mr. Donald:

Congratulations on becoming CEO of Carnival Corporation.  We believe your broad business experience will serve Carnival well.

One area we suggest for focus is community relations and insuring adherence to Carnival’s values as stated in its Sustainability Report.

Our community group in Charleston has attempted for over eighteen months to engage Carnival in a dialogue with respect to its homeport operations in Charleston.  In a series of eight letters, we have asked a number of relevant questions and gotten no responses.  A copy of the most recent letter is enclosed.

We will simplify the task of Carnival responding to important questions about community impact in Charleston, repeatedly asked, by now focusing on one simple question:  If the South Carolina State Ports Authority provided shore power facilities at Union Pier or an alternative terminal, would Carnival fit the Fantasy to use shore power?

The South Carolina Medical Association and the Charleston County Medical Society have adopted resolutions calling for shore power to avoid human health risks.  The Charleston Post and Courier has called for shore power for cruise ship operations.  Many Charleston residents in the historic neighborhoods near Union Pier are flying “no soot” flags to protest cruise ship air pollution.

The City of Charleston has initiated a Green Business Challenge in which, given Mayor Joe Riley’s support for your cruise operations, we certainly expect Carnival (like Boeing) to participate.  Shore power would be a logical and welcome component.  One of the City’s partners in GBC is the Medical University of South Carolina.  Please let the City know of your plans to participate.

The use of shore power would eliminate pollution impact issues and allow thoughtful reconsideration of the best location for a cruise ship terminal.  Please understand that none of the groups questioning the location, pollution and congestion of a cruise ship terminal are opposed to cruise ships.

It is obvious that cities with terminals reasonably distant from historic and residential areas and with shore power facilities have done it “right”.  We look forward to your response and participation in helping Charleston get it right.

With regards,

Carrie Agnew

Executive Director; C4

 

cc:
Mr. Gerry Cahill, CEO Carnival Cruise Lines
Sir John Parker, Carnival HESS director

Encls:         Letter dated February 11, 2013

 

 

 

Letter to Senator Durbin Considering Port Cities

With recent government attempts to obtain more respect for cruise PASSENGERS’ rights and safety, we are hoping to also bring attention to the same for cruise PORT CITIES.

July 30, 2013

The Honorable Richard Durbin
711 Hart Senate Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Durbin:

We thank you for your efforts to increase cruise lines responsibility to American passengers.

As a well-subscribed non-profit in Charleston SC seeking legally binding regulations for cruise lines to adhere to when in port, may we suggest you consider our Cruise Ship Code of Conduct as well?

The Code was written as voluntary guidelines cruise lines visiting our city could adhere to. We believe it can easily be adapted to specific/applicable concerns of other port Cities.  We have mailed it to Carnival Corporation and its Board four times, with no response. Carnival is a Panama corporation which pays little or no U.S. taxes, yet its cruise ships place large environmental and quality of life burdens on communities.

In addition, our organization has been actively seeking the requirement of shore power by the home port cruise ships (currently Carnival Fantasy, which visits at least 60 times a year) and port of call ships.  The use of shore power to address health concerns is increasingly common, especially in the use of new terminals—Charleston has one in the planning stages.

We believe that, as important as it is for passengers on a voyage be protected, so should the cities—and citizens therein—the cruise lines use as a home port base.  They place burdens on City infrastructure, residents, businesses and ambiance.  Too often, as seen with Mobile, San Diego and Norfolk, cruise companies can simply change their mind, leaving the purpose built facilities abandoned.

We hope you will consider our concerns, outlined in detail on our website CharlestonCruiseControl.org, and consider including our Cruise Ship Code of Conduct among the actions you seek on behalf of the American people.

The cruise lines, Carnival specifically in this case, have been totally unresponsive regarding requests for dialogue, explanation of different practices in various ports and the lack of implementation of their own Sustainability Report as it pertains to historic and or environmentally sensitive port cities.

With regards,

Carrie Agnew
Executive Director, C4

cc:     Sen. Jay Rockefeller

 

ENCLOSURE – 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.