Archive for May 2019

Give us ‘standing’ on cruise ships


When a cruise ship the size of a skyscraper pulls into town and takes on or disgorges some 3,000 passengers, it’s hard to argue that has no effect on the quality of life in Charleston’s historic downtown. Of course it does. But so far, residents have been denied legal “standing” in litigation related to the expansion of the cruise industry.

That could and should change after the South Carolina Supreme Court considers the legal question on June 11. The cruise ship controversy has surfaced again with the recent arrival of the larger Carnival Cruise Line ship Sunshine, now based in Charleston.

The overarching legal question is whether citizens have a right to challenge governmental decisions that affect them. In this discrete case, it’s whether Charlestonians affected by pollution, traffic and other ills related to cruise ships have a legal right to challenge a permit issued by the Department of Health of Environmental Control for a new cruise terminal.

So far, administrative law courts have said “no.” That’s presumably a legally defensible position, but it’s also downright un-American insomuch that it saps the life out of the fundamental constitutional right “to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

“We will ask the Supreme Court to restore those rights, which are vital to keep the government in check and accountable to citizens across South Carolina,” plaintiffs attorney Blan Holman of Southern Environmental Law Center told The Post and Courier last summer when the high court agreed to hear the case.

Should the court rule in favor of the plaintiffs, the legal tug of war over the permitting of a new cruise terminal would return to an administrative law court where the plaintiffs, including environmental, historic preservation and neighborhood groups, would at least have their concerns heard.

As it is, the Sunshine will continue to use the cruise terminal next to where the new terminal would be built, pending the outcome of the long-running litigation. And the State Ports Authority is sticking to its voluntary cap of 104 port calls per year.

But it’s clear that Charleston is an attractive port of call for the expanding cruise industry, and the Supreme Court decision will be vital to the people of Charleston in balancing their interests against those of the cruise industry, as well as the State Ports Authority and other entities, far into the future.

If the justices are convinced that state law does not give them the option of allowing this case to proceed, they need to make that clear in their ruling so the Legislature can remedy the problem. It is one thing to be knocked down, but it’s an entirely different matter to be ignored and denied legal standing in a case that has everything to do with citizens having a say in how their quality of life is shaped.

Carnival Sunshine’s arrival in Charleston raises concern from residents

CLICK TO VIEW CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — A new cruise ship that carries one thousand more passengers per trip than it’s predecessor just moved into Charleston harbor.

The arrival of Carnival Sunshine renews the debate over the cruise industry in the Lowcountry.

Since 2010, Carnival has run the only year-round cruise operation in Charleston. Now, it’s doing even more business here with the introduction of a much bigger ship.

Starting this month, Carnival Sunshine replaces Ecstasy. Its first voyage out of Charleston took place on Saturday.

“Excited, very excited,” says Lee Shanks, a cruise passenger from New York.

“We’re gonna drink a lot of beer, that’s all I know,” said Dustin Holloway, who came from North Carolina to ride the cruise.

Yvonndria Harris and Dee Shelton from Tennessee say they’re excited for their cruise. “We’re really happy today. We’re ready to get going.”

Since 2017, Carnival Ships have been on probation by the federal government, after the company admitted to breaking environmental law.

According to US District Court documents below, a court-appointed monitor found Carnival violated the probation terms with quote “record falsification and numerous instances of prohibited discharge” – that includes multiple violations in Charleston waters.

Originally, Carnival invited ABC News 4 for a tour of the new ship. Two weeks later, they disinvited our reporter, explaining it would be very busy at the pier. Turns out, they were right.

Robin Holley from Myrtle Beach says she is excited about Carnival’s new ship, “we are happy to have the Sunshine here in Charleston.”

But residents who live nearby are not so happy about the larger ship that’s scheduled to sail out of Charleston 40 more times this year.

“Lots of extra traffic flows in for passengers to come and board the ship, and there’s additional pollution from many hundreds of cars coming in,” says local resident Tommie Robertson.

Environmentalists like Caroline Bradner with the SC Coastal Conservation League say cruise ship fuel emissions and waste discharge are a growing concern for the Charleston-area.

“What they’re emitting actually is equivalent to thousands of 18-wheelers, right here in this historic area of the peninsula in Charleston,” Bradner said. “They can discharge untreated grey water, macerated garbage, and sewage three miles from our shore, so just within sight of our harbor.”

Mayor Riley brought Carnival to the Holy City. ABC News 4 asked Mayor Tecklenburg about the Sunshine, who says he’s concerned that the city can’t regulate its cruise ship policies and procedures because the port is a state government entity.

Longtime Charleston City Councilman Mike Seekings is highly critical of the new ship in our port.

“Whenever you add another burden of 1000 cars four times a week, which is exactly what we think this is doing or maybe more, it’s just increasing our congestion,” Seekings says. “And most importantly, it’s increasing the burden on the people who live here in terms of livability, and the people who live here in terms of the cost of running a city.”

Seekings and Mayor Tecklenburg say the state ports authority should require a landing tax on cruise operators to give back to the city.

“Right now, it’s just economically inequitable,” Seekings says. “They’re getting all the benefit, and we in the City of Charleston are accepting all of the burden.”

The ports authority didn’t return our request for comment on a tax, but it did defend Carnival’s new ship in a statement:

Cruise operations are a relatively small but important part of maritime commerce and diversity of the port’s business segments. Carnival’s decision to home-port the Sunshine in Charleston is an affirmation of their success and commitment to operations here.

According to Carnival, cruise industry operators generate $131 million in direct expenditures, and account for nearly 2,400 jobs and $93 million in wages in South Carolina each year.

A lawsuit to block the state ports authority from building a much larger cruise ship terminal at union pier goes to the South Carolina Supreme Court on June 11.

In a statement to ABC News 4, a Carnival spokesman writes:

We worked together with the port of Charleston team for over a year to develop an operating plan in Charleston that would minimize the impact on local infrastructure, and carnival sunshine is equipped with state of the art emission technology that allows the ship to fully comply with all current regulations.

A cruise ship’s emissions are the same as 1 million cars: report

A luxury cruise vacation may sound like a perfect dream holiday, but a German environmental organization says that in terms of environmental impact, the industry is an absolute nightmare.

​Nabu has just released its annual report on cruise ship pollution. It looked at dozens of vessels travelling in Europe, and decided not to recommend any of them. 

Dietmar Oeliger is one of the authors and head of transport policy at Nabu. He spoke with As it Happens host Carol Off from Berlin. Here is part of their conversation. 

Were there really no cruise ships that you looked at that you could recommend?

Unfortunately not. We found out that pollution from the cruise ship industry is still massive, even despite that they claim newer vessels are clean and green. We made measurements at quite a few cruise lines, and it proves that nearly all of them, their attitude to the environment is still poor.

Why are they so bad for the environment?

All of them run on the dirtiest fuel you can imagine. It’s heavy fuel oil, it’s quite toxic. It’s a residual of the petrol industry, and it contains a lot of dirty stuff.

The cruise companies know what they are doing, and they know about the problems. But still, they order new ships and don’t install emission abatement systems.

And on top of that, nearly all of the cruise ships don’t have a catalyst or a particulate filter, [like] trucks and cars. That, altogether, sums up to really poor environmental situations.

The report says that a mid-sized cruise ship can use as much as 150 tonnes of fuel each day, which emits as much particulate as one million cars. Is that right?

That’s correct. And the reason for this is that their engines run 24/7. Even if they’re in the ports, they have to keep running their engines, because it’s not only a transport mode, it’s a hotel facility. They have a spa on board, restaurants … and that needs a lot of energy — more or less the same energy a mid-sized city needs.

What does it mean for those who are actually cruising around on the boats themselves?

Unfortunately, we were not allowed as an organization to have measurements on board. Therefore, we helped two major TV stations from Germany and one from France to go undercover on board and take measurements with our help. It showed that the amount of emissions that passengers breathe on board is more than twenty times higher than on a main road with a lot of pollution. 

You write in the report that the cruise ship companies “show contempt for their customers.” What do you mean by that?

The cruise companies know what they are doing. And they know about the problems that result from their emissions.But, still, they order new ships and don’t install emission abatement systems on their ships. Most of the newest ships, that cost about a billion dollars, they don’t even have an emission abatement system that would cost about a million. I would say this is really irresponsible. 

This is a competitive industry, they’re all cutting costs where they can. So is it really the companies themselves that should be making these changes, or should this be legislated?

Of course, legislation would be the most effective way. But legislation is made by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which is located in London. It’s an organization where countries like Liberia, Panama or Greece have a strong position.

And that is because most of the ships are flagged in these states. These countries are very often not interested in environmental regulation and strong enforcement. And that’s why we say we can’t wait for IMO. We have to be much faster. 

Would you recommend to people not to take cruises?

Well, I wouldn’t go on a cruise ship for many reasons. I would not say that people shouldn’t go. If it’s a once-in-a-lifetime dream for them, if they saved a lot of money to do it, that’s fine for me. But if you have the choice to take this or that ship, then take one that is doing quite well in terms of environmental regulation.