Port Cities Fret Over Taxpayer-Funded Terminals for Cruise Ships, an ABC news article-

Controversy roils the waters of the Charleston, S.C., harbor and others in the US. At issue: Is the ever-expanding cruise ship industry a cost or benefit to port cities? And how much should taxpayers chip in for port facilities versus what they can expect in return?

Since 2010 the 2,000-passenger Carnival Cruise ship Fantasy has been based in Charleston at a terminal, which, according to the Post & Courier, is now considered old and outdated. Under debate is whether a new, $35 million cruise ship terminal should be built.

Read more. 

Cruise Ship Docks May Be Good for Business, but Some Charleston Residents Want Them Gone

Imagine yourself reclined on a cruise ship, sipping piña coladas, and leisurely moving through the ocean to the next stop along your week-long journey. What could be more idyllic?

Now, imagine the thick clouds of smoke, the swarms of tourists and all of the noise that cruise ships bring to port cities. That’s the experience that a group of homeowners in Charleston, South Carolina associate with these gigantic ships docking in their quaint, historic downtown.

They don’t want the city to expand its cruise terminal — at least not in the historic district, where some buildings date back to the 1700’s.

But the City of Charleston is doing all it can to push back, saying that millions of dollars worth of tourist dollars are at stake.

It’s one issue that mirrors some of the complex problems that arise with an expanding cruise line industry. This debate has grown more traction in the wake of Carnival Cruise Lines’ Triumph’s on-board fire caught fire last week. Reporter Kim Severson, at our partner The New York Times, wrote about the growing pushback against the cruiseline industry in coastal cities around the country.

Article on the New York Times home page cites concerns for Charleston with unregulated cruise tourism

Not in My Port, Charleston’s Cruise Ship Opponents Say

CHARLESTON, S.C. — In this Southern coastal city that runs on history and hospitality, a raucous civic debate belies a genteel veneer.

Like several communities that hug the nation’s coastline, Charleston is struggling to balance the economic benefits of cruise ships against their cultural and environmental impact.

Last week’s debacle aboard Carnival Cruise Lines’ Triumph, in which an engine fire stranded 4,200 people in the Gulf of Mexico for five days, has done little to deter those civic leaders who believe that building a new $35 million cruise terminal will be a great boon for this port city.

But for people like Jay Williams, a homeowner in the historic district who writes a blog for Charleston Communities for Cruise Control, a preservationist group, the nightmare on the Triumph is one more piece of evidence in the case against a fast-growing form of travel. “Cruise ships are sardine cans packed with passengers and crew, susceptible to horrific accidents that instantly can put thousands at risk for their lives,” he wrote after the episode.

Cruising has never been more popular or affordable, with its mix of easy travel, exotic locales and onboard amenities that include cooking schools and simulated surfing. In 2012, cruise ships carried 20 million passengers, the majority of them from the United States. With 14 new cruise ships entering the water in 2014, the number of passengers is expected to increase by as much as 8 percent.

But on the shores of the nation’s most charming cities and towns, the relationship is complicated.

In Key West, Fla., voters will decide this fall whether to spend $3 million toward widening a channel that leads to the city’s ports, where 350 cruise ships arrive each year. A deeper channel would allow a new, larger class of cruise ships to dock. Business owners and residents worry that the dredging would hurt fragile coral reefs and overwhelm the town.

In Alaska, state lawmakers are expected to decide Wednesday whether to roll back tough wastewater standards mandated by voters in 2006. If the proposal, backed by Gov. Sean Parnell, is approved, the 36 cruise ships that travel Alaska’s waters each year will be able to discharge waste water with less treatment than it currently receives.

Michelle Ridgway, a marine ecologist who serves on the state science panel for cruise ships, watched as Alaska cruise ship traffic grew to about a million people a year and changed her hometown of Ketchikan.

“The pulp mill closed and the place turned into Disneyland,” she said.

Charleston’s cruise ship debate seems small by comparison, but it is deeply felt.

The Fantasy — at 23 years old, the oldest ship in the Carnival fleet — has been based in Charleston since 2010. It slides into port once or twice a week. Some 2,000 passengers, most of whom have driven in from nearby states, walk through an aging terminal, climb aboard and sail off to the Bahamas or the Caribbean for a few days or a week. Other cruise ships sometimes stop to visit the city, too.

The South Carolina Ports Authority wants to build a new ship terminal that port officials say will handle only one ship at a time, but the frequency of ships could increase.

Those dedicated to preserving a section of town whose buildings date to the 1700s worry that a new terminal will bring a damaging concentration of tourist traffic and larger cruise vessels.

“I can’t believe they are doing this to Charleston,” said Carolyn Dietrich, who lives just a few blocks from the terminal. “I can hear the announcements from my house,” she said. “And that black smoke. It just tumbles out of that smokestack. You should see the dust in my car.”

Port officials point out that cruise ships are a tiny slice of the city’s shipping traffic. More than 1,700 vessels use the port every year, and only 85 of those are cruise ships. And cruise traffic, they say, is worth $37 million a year to the region.

But this city takes its preservation seriously. The specter of more cruise ships has spawned three state and federal lawsuits and has placed the city’s historic district on the World Monument Fund’s list of most endangered cultural sites.

The intensity of opposition has the usually unflappable mayor, Joseph P. Riley Jr., baffled and angry. “This thing is hard to understand because it’s not logical,” he said. “This is not a theme park. One of the authentic parts of Charleston is that we are an international port.”

He points out that the city will get a new waterfront park, and that it has a voluntary agreement with the port that caps the number of ships a year at 104.

People wary of cruise ship traffic want the limit to be legally binding. They also want the ships to plug into electrical power on shore, a newer technology only some ships have. (Shore power exists at some Alaska and California ports and is in the process of being adapted at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook.)

But mostly, they want the port to consider two other spots along the waterfront, which the mayor and port officials say are unworkable.

Not that cruise ship passengers worry too much about the impact their vacations have on local communities. Battles over local or federal legislation, like the Clean Cruise Ship Act, which died in Congress in 2010, are not as interesting as which name-brand chef is going to open a restaurant on board.

“Our audience doesn’t really respond to the municipal-level battles or the environmental stuff,” said Dan Askin, senior editor at, a consumer Web site dedicated to cruise ships.

The cruise ship industry has less comprehensive oversight than the airline industry, which is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration. Ships fly under foreign flags and their parent companies are incorporated overseas, leaving regulation to a patchwork of federal, state and, rarely, local laws.

That puts more responsibility on local communities that host cruise ships, said Marcie Keever, oceans and vessels program director at Friends of the Earth, an environmental group. “They need to not just listen to the cruise ship industry or assume regulations are in place,” she said. “They need to talk to other cities that have gone through this.”

A cautionary tale might be found in Mobile, Ala., where Carnival Cruise Lines hauled the lifeless Triumph last week. Mobile would gladly take any cruise ship traffic at all. The port and the city romanced Carnival Cruise Lines for years. In 2004, after the city borrowed $20 million to build a terminal, Carnival finally agreed to the relationship and based a ship there.

In 2007, Carnival named Mobile its port of the year. Things were going so well that in 2009, Mobile spent $2.6 million on a new gangway. Two years later, Carnival left.

The location just wasn’t popular enough, it said, and rising fuel costs made Mobile a less efficient port than New Orleans.

“It’s a mobile fleet so they can move to a place that is giving them the best deal,” said Mr. Askin. “That’s good for the companies, but bad things start to happen to cities when ships bail out.”


The Trauma on the “Triumph”

Kalin Hill/Kalin Hill, via Associated Press

“Weary and miserable, sickened by the stench of sewage,” the last of more than 4,200 passengers and crew hobbled off the Carnival “Triumph” Friday, “after tugboats lugged it to the Alabama shore and finally brought an end to a five-day floating nightmare,” “the agony prolonged by a snapped cable connecting the ship to one of four tugboats,” NBC News reported early today.(1)  “In the sweltering heat, passengers set up tent cities on outdoor decks, hoping to catch a breeze or simply unwilling to endure the stench emanating from inside.”  Other reports tell of tempers flying, overflowing toilets, “squishy carpets,” long lines for food, sickened passengers, children “hysterically crying” and “sewage running down the walls and floors.”(2) “The ship’s afloat, so is the sewage,” said a passenger.

The horrific five-day ordeal that began Sunday when a fire erupted on the 13-year-old Carnival “Triumph” cruise ship that knocked out power, leaving it adrift in the Gulf “without propulsion, with little running water, less electricity, and utterly bereft of sanitation.”(3)  Passengers alternately endured 90-degree heat and cold rainstorms, many forced out of their cabins as the inoperable toilets and broken air-conditioning systems made the stench and running sewage unbearable.

Under conditions described as “vile,” “filthy,” and “horrible,” one passenger texted, “Room smells like an outhouse. Cold water only, toilets haven’t work in 3 1/2 days…”It’s 4:00 am. Can’t sleep…it’s cold & I’m starting to get sick.”  Another passenger, Renee Shaner, told the AP, “People have gotten food poisoning. Old people have fallen and hurt themselves.”  Another passenger reported “terrible” conditions, standing in line three hours just to get a hot dog, being forced to urinate in the shower, and using plastic bags to go to the bathroom.(4)

Yet as the crises worsened, Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill merely called conditions on the ship “challenging.”(5)   Appearing under-informed, perhaps he needed a thesaurus to adequately describe the catastrophe on-board.  Days later, he more profusely apologized.

“The problems of the “Triumph” fit into a larger picture, too, one painted by a booming cruise industry that increasingly is priced for the middle class but that critics say has become too large too fast and needs stronger, more consistent oversight,” a New York Times story written by Kim Severson and other reporters noted, adding, “[w]ith the industry’s popularity has come concerns over safety, pollution and the impact of thousands of tourists.  Communities including Key West, Fla.; Sitka, Alaska; and Charleston, S.C., are weighing the economic gains against the cultural and environmental impact of an industry with ships that can accommodate more than 6,000 people.  ‘There are more ships out there, so we are seeing a higher number of incidents like this, and that is not good for the cruise industry,’ said Ross Klein, a faculty member at Memorial University in Newfoundland who has testified before Congress on the safety and environmental impact of cruise ships.”(6)

Inopportunely and only days before the “Triumph’s” horror show, South Carolina State Ports CEO Jim Newsome emailed, “Cruise ships, like any of the other ships calling our port, represent maritime commerce activity that is essential to supporting our local maritime community.”  Codswallop, Mr. Newsome.  Cruise ships aren’t like “any of the other ships,” they aren’t essential, and they represent only a small fraction of port revenues.

Cruise ships are sardine cans packed with passengers and crew, susceptible to horrific accidents that instantly can put thousands at risk for their lives.  Although everyone has seen the sunken Carnival-owned Costa Concordia that took 33 passenger lives, few know that there have been 79 cruise ship fires since l990.  Former Carnival Cruise Lines senior executive Jay Herring admits, “There are so many moving parts and things that can go wrong.”(7)  In the case of the Carnival “Triumph,” they did.  The NY Daily News wrote that “the interior portions of the 14-story ship have been turned into a sweltering, gut churning sauna far removed from the vision of the boat as ’24 hours of fun a day’ that the company promotes on its website.”  One person related: “It’s like a bunch of savages on there.”(8)   We’re unlikely to find out all that may have happened.

These people getting off the “Triumph” in Mobile are sick, some may be infected with nanoviruses; the crew (given credit by many passengers for their efforts) may be in worse shape; and certainly the ship itself is filthy and contaminated.  These cruise ships, owned by foreign owned corporations, are not subject to the rigorous inspections required of ships registered in the US, their crews are also not given the same working condition protections, and, in fact, the Bahamian authorities will lead this accident investigation. “The result is that cruise ships are largely unregulated,” says maritime lawyer James Walker on CNN’s website.(9)  Yet the potential for sickness, viruses and disease coming ashore is another important reason that cruise terminals must be isolated–kept apart and isolated for the safety of concentrated, general population areas.  It’s not just the taxis, the provisioning trucks, the toxic soot and continuous noise, the parking, pollution and traffic problems, the requirements for ship and food safety, dangerous weapons and border security–the health of our residents is another reason why Charleston’s proposed large-scale cruise terminal must not be built at Union Pier downtown.

1)  Tempers started flying; passengers tell of filth and flight – NBC News
2)  Kids on stranded ship call home “hysterically crying” – Fox News Video
3)  Cruise Ships, they’re just floating bathrooms – The Daily Beast
4)  Moor Delay – Carnival’s cruise from hell won’t dock until dark – Fox News
5)  Passengers leave crippled cruise – USA Today
6)  Cruise lines woes are far from over as ship makes port – NY Times
7)  Cruise passengers describe horrendous conditions on disabled ship – AP
8)  Foul conditions aboard stranded Carnival Cruise Ship…   –NY Daily News
9)  What cruise lines don’t want you to know – CNN

The cruise industry needs Charleston a lot more than Charleston needs the cruise industry

Charleston hosts international conference on impact of cruise ships in historic cities

CHARLESTON, S.C. – Cruise passengers can overwhelm historic cities, causing congestion and chasing off other visitors who mean more to local economies, those attending an international conference on cruise tourism were told Thursday.

Visitors who arrive by car or air and stay in hotels and eat in local restaurants are more valuable to local economies than those coming by ship, speakers told about 100 people attending “Harboring Tourism: A Symposium on Cruise Ships in Historic Port Communities.”

This year the number of people cruising worldwide is expected to increase. Booking dropped last year after the Costa Concordia capsized off the Italian coast, killing 32 people.

The conference is sponsored by the World Monuments Fund, the Preservation Society of Charleston and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Amos Bien, technical director for the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, said studies of ports in Central America show that cruise passengers mean about $55 a day for the local economy, compared to more than $100 for those who stay in the cities. The industry generated about $19 million for Costa Rica in 1995 while other tourists meant $2.1 billion to the economy, he said.

The Thursday discussion ranged from the impact of cruises in Key West, Fla., to Croatia, Norway and Charleston.

Ross Klein of Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada, said the industry in Key West grew from 133,000 passengers in 1990 to 1 million in 2004. In Dubrovnik, Croatia, when several cruise ships dock at a time as many as 10,000 passengers can be trying to enter the walled city of about 42,000, he said.

“It’s your city and don’t lose focus in terms of what’s in your best interest,” Klein said. He said there’s little evidence those who visit a city on a cruise later return.

This year there’s expected to be 2,300 port calls with 3 million passengers visiting the fjords of western Norway.

“When the cruise industry gets too big, it weakens the land-based product,” Christian Jorgensen of Fjord Norway, a tourist promotion board said, adding other tourists may not visit if the fjords become too crowded.

Economist Harry Miley last year compiled a report on the Charleston cruise industry suggesting while the city’s historic areas deals with passengers, traffic and congestion, the city gets only a fraction of the surrounding region’s economic benefit from cruises. Several lawsuits have been filed over Charleston’s year-round cruises.

“The cruise industry needs Charleston a lot more than Charleston needs the cruise industry,” he said.

However, another report commissioned by the South Carolina State Ports Authority estimated the impact of cruises at $37 million annually.

Carnival Cruise Lines permanently based its 2,056-passenger liner Fantasy here three years ago, creating a year-round cruise industry.

Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. has said the city has long been a careful steward of tourism and is handling the cruise industry in the same way.

The city has a voluntary agreement with the Ports Authority that the city will be consulted if the industry grows beyond its present size of 85 to 100 port calls a year. Opponents of the industry want that a binding legal agreement.


Lowcountry symposium tackles cruise issues

The Lowcountry capped a cruise symposium Friday, calling for all sides to open a better dialogue and begin conversations about the impact of the cruise industry on Charleston.

The World Monuments Fund, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Preservation Society of Charleston, the International Council of Monuments and Sites, the Center for Responsible Travel and the Coastal Conservation League hosted Harboring Tourism: A Symposium on Cruise Ships in Historic Port Communities, which lasted from Wednesday through Friday.


Preservation and conservation groups hosted a symposium in the Lowcountry last week and addressed the cruise industry. (Photo/Leslie Burden
Preservation and conservation groups hosted a symposium in the Lowcountry last week and addressed the cruise industry. (Photo/Leslie Burden)

Panelists discussed the economic and environmental impacts of the cruise industry, policy tools that can be used to regulate the cruise industry and other topics.

On Friday, the group heard recommendations and a recap of the conference.

Jamie Sweeting, principal of Sweeting Sustainability Solutions and a consultant for Royal Caribbean Cruises, asked the audience to empathize with different points of view.

“I think there’s been some excellent advice,” Sweeting said. “I urge you to recognize there is a different point of view.”

Sweeting asked attendees to define success for the Lowcountry’s quality of life.

“That’s not just for you in this room, but for all of the citizens in this place,” Sweeting said, adding they should represent the many and not the few.

Another attendee followed Sweeting and agreed with him, saying dialogue goes both ways and the cruise industry needs to empathize with their perspective as well and make an effort to hear their point of view.

A former New Yorker staff writer gave the symposium’s final speech. Tony Hiss has also written 13 books, most recently In Motion: The Experience of Travel.

Hiss said the time may have come for new tactics.

“It’s time to reach out to the rest of the city,” he said, adding that it is disquieting that the only black person at the symposium was from Aruba. “What are their problems? What are the smokestacks in their lives that they cannot abide?”

Hiss said cruise ships bring many contradictions to the surface. Diesel trucks aren’t allowed to idle, but a docked cruise ship can. Cruise ships snarl traffic downtown, but traffic is also stopped every time it rains hard.

“Nobody seems to be up in arms about that,” Hiss said.

Hiss also advised working collaboratively and reaching out locally and regionally.

“Communities that argue tend to solve their problems,” Hiss said. “Silent communities don’t, so you’re well on your way to solving your problems.”


Time to talk about cruises like adults


Cruise Conference in Charleston, Wrap up of the three-day cruise conference included all sorts of advice, some of it conflicting, as far as where Charleston and other port cities should go from here.
Leroy Burnell/StaffCruise Conference in Charleston, Wrap up of the three-day cruise conference included all sorts of advice, some of it conflicting, as far as where Charleston and other port cities should go from here. Buy this photo


Those in Charleston who want the city to regulate the cruise industry here say they have been trying to get a constructive dialogue going for three years. But Carnival Cruise Lines doesn’t answer their letters. And neither the city nor the S.C. State Ports Authority appears interested in talking.

Still, the key message that emerged during an international conference here on “Harboring Tourism” was: Get a dialogue going. If all the “stakeholders” work together to determine what this community wants to be, and therefore what role it wants cruise tourism to play, the impasse can be overcome.



Horror stories about how unregulated cruise operations have damaged historic ports around the world were convincing evidence to attendees at the three-day conference concluding Friday that it is essential for Charleston and other historic ports to avoid falling victim to similar problems.

Evan Thompson, director of the Preservation Society of Charleston, which planned the conference in conjunction with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the World Monuments Fund, said he hopes the conference will be the beginning of a new, constructive conversation about how to manage cruises in this, and other, historic ports.

The speakers, who came from as far as Norway, Canada, Alaska and Mexico, shared their experiences. Among them: The once pristine fjords of Norway are crowded with cruise ships and sometimes cloaked in the smog they cause; the ancient city of Venice is dealing with erosion, crowding and visual blight as a result of mammoth cruise ships calling there; and coral reefs near Cozumel, Mexico, are still healthy, but local people fear what might happen since the cruise business has tripled.

Several people shared encouraging stories of how a healthy conversation led to mutually agreeable solutions. Sadly, the question of how to strike a “delicate balance” between tourism — cruises in particular — and the quality of life in Charleston turned adversarial almost from the start.

Soon after a forum put on by the Historic Charleston Foundation three years ago, in which the city and the port both participated, the question was misrepresented as “jobs versus snobs.” Instead of acknowledging their efforts to find solutions to congestion, traffic, emissions, visual pollution and a possible erosion of property values, citizens were painted as anti-cruise ships (they aren’t) who don’t care about port jobs (they do).

While neither the city nor the State Ports Authority accepted the Preservation Society’s invitation to attend the conference, the hosts will make information available.

The “opposing” sides are not really so far apart on some concerns. The Ports Authority has said it will limit the number of cruise ship visits to 104 a year, and will limit the size of those ships that call here.

Those conditions are acceptable to the other side. They just want an ordinance making the limits binding the way restrictions on other tourist businesses are binding.

More divergent are their opinions about where the cruise terminal should be located and whether cruise ships should be required to use shoreside power instead of deisel fuel while docked to reduce harmful emissions. But there is no reason those topics can’t be on the table.

The SPA benefits financially from the cruise business, but international port studies have found that the financial benefit to communities is negligible at best, and that the strains that unfettered cruise ships put on ports in some cases negate any benefits altogether. One fear is that cruise passengers in too great numbers will drive away overnight tourists who are likely to spend four times as much while here. And it isn’t just peninsula Charleston that would suffer if tourism suffers. It is a prime economic driver throughout the Lowcountry.

If the community is unable to bring other stakeholders to the table, the conversation is likely to go largely to the courts.

Already, several lawsuits have been filed in relation to the SPA’s plans to build a new passenger terminal. The Historic Charleston Foundation, frustrated after attempts to work out solutions have fallen on deaf ears, this week threw up its hands and decided to join one of the suits.

Fortunately, people in Charleston are trying to address the issue of cruises before there is a crisis situation, and after learning about just how much damage they can bring, when not regulated.

It’s a good time for all involved to try to cooperate and come to some reasonable solutions.

The fantasy of “the Fantasy”


Charleston was recently named Conde Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Top
Destination in the World!(1)  After 2015, such an honor is unlikely.

Why do tourists love Charleston?  Ohio residents Gary and
Marilyn Steyskal, who’ve visited twice a year since the ’80’s, say, “It’s the
history, the restaurants, the historical churches, and we like to explore old
cemeteries.  We always find something we haven’t seen before.”(2)  Those reasons
match many surveys that proclaim Charleston’s charm, history, historic homes and
gardens, architecture, ambiance, culture, restaurants, and friendly people as
the draw for almost 5 million tourists annually.  Tourists don’t take those
horse-drawn carriages to the Citadel Mall–they head downtown into the historic
neighborhoods to wander through the quaint streets and charming neighborhoods,
relax in one of our restaurants and browse the downtown shops.  People want to
see historic Charleston; that’s why they come.

Sadly, a cherished history doesn’t portend a glorious
future.  Ask the people who once lived in Venice, Italy, Dubrovnik, Croatia or
Key West, Florida.  These are cities changed, damaged or in decline.  People
left as carelessness replaced civility and T-shirt vendors displaced charming
shops.  Much of the damage was caused by the rapid increase of cruise ship
visits so near the historic centers of these cities.  That’s why the National
Trust for Historic Preservation has put Charleston on special “Watch Status”
when it released its list of “Americas 11 Most Endangered Places in 2011.”(3)

The biggest myth of cruise ship tourism is that what you see
is what you’ll get.  As upsetting as it may be for those in Ansonborough and on
the East Side, proponents say it won’t get worse.  That’s “the fantasy.”  It’s
about to get a lot worse.

First, cruise ships carried 2 million passengers in the
l980’s; this year, they’ll carry 18 million!  Modern cruise tourism, increasing
by 7.2% annually, is the fastest growing segment of the leisure travel

“As a result of this growth…  “Second, cruise ships are getting bigger,
much bigger.”

Second, Cruise ships are getting bigger, much bigger.  The
“Fantasy,” the 22-year-old ship that’s home-ported in Charleston, is the oldest
ship and one of the smallest in Carnival’s fleet.  Rumor has it, it’s for
sale.(5)  When she’s gone, she won’t be replaced by another 70,000-ton ship with
2,060 passengers and a crew of 920.  For a glimpse at what’s sailing over the
horizon, check out the ship Carnival just ordered.  She’ll be the first of a
new, larger class–a 135,000-ton behemoth that will carry 4,000 passengers.(6)
Royal Caribbean already sails two, even larger ships, the “Allure of the Seas”
and the “Oasis of the Seas.”  Each carries 6,300 passengers and 2,400 crew.(7)
Each is also five times larger than the Titanic!

Third, these aren’t like ships of the past that were built to
take passengers from one port to the next.  When Carnival reinvented the cruise
industry in l972, each ship was designed to be the destination.  This brilliant
business model lures passengers with a low-priced deals, then encourages them to
spend and spend once on-board.  And there’s lots to spend on: upscale
restaurants, spa treatments, drinks at multiple bars and nightclubs, adult-only
serenity retreat, “meet and mingle” lounges, city-styled “shopping streets,”
casinos, plus “entertainment options all up and down the ship” as one Carnival
offering promotes.(8)  Why just take passengers from one port to another to
spend their money if they’ll spend money on the ship?(9)   That business plan is
working!  Royal Caribbean, the third largest cruise line, rolled out its public
offering just two weeks ago at $19 a share–those shares jumped 31% the first
day!  Carnival Corp., with 99 ships, is valued at $30 billion.(10)  Today’s
mega-ships compete for tourist dollars with land-based resorts totally unlike
yesterday’s ships that contributed to the ports they visited.(11)

Fourth, in spite of these facts and trends, the State Ports
Authority (SPA) unilaterally decided to wedge a giant new cruise terminal in at
Union Pier next to historic downtown.  The SPA never engaged Charleston’s
citizens in a discussion about alternative locations; in fact, it never
considered any other location even though regulations required such a study.(12)
It never researched other historic cities–those that haven’t been damaged by
cruise tourism–where their cruise terminals are farther removed from their
historic downtowns, neighborhoods and small streets.  So soon, unless fate or
common sense (both unlikely) or a lawsuit (only slightly less unlikely)
intervene, thousands more passengers, in concentrated throngs, will swarm
through the streets of Charleston’s historic districts with those crowds growing
by 7.2% year after year.

The SPA has also rejected every single idea to mitigate the
damage that a 100,000 sq. ft. cruise terminal, 9 acres of parking, traffic and
passenger congestion, the swarm and pollution of provisioning trucks, homeland
and border security, and increasingly large cruise ships will cause near
downtown.  The SPA refused to agree to binding limits on the size, number of
ships, or frequency of visits, and it’s refused to install shore power or demand
non-sulfer (toxic) diesel fuel be required while these ships idle for eight
hours a day in port.  It’s ignored every olive branch, every warning by doctors,
every concern raised about the damage cruise terminals have caused to other
historic cities.(14)  The only way to bring the SPA to the negotiating table is
to stop this “fast track” terminal approval…somehow.   If the brakes aren’t
applied, and this giant new cruise terminal is permitted for Union Pier, with an
existing 1800 foot pier that can accommodate these mega-ships, the impacts will
be devastating for Charleston’s historic districts including Ansonborough,
downtown, the French Quarter and South of Broad.  Once it’s built and the
dangers are finally realized, it’ll be too late.

Two things are certain. The SPA’s mantra ad nauseum about Charleston’s
“300 years of port history” is bunk.(15)  And so is the implied corollary that
Charleston’s fabled history can protect it from a future of unbridled,
unregulated tourism.  The continuous, explosive surge of cruise ship tourists is
unlike any threat from the past.  And given the immense resources and power of
the cruise industry, what local “regulations,” even if imposed, couldn’t be
weakened?  Charleston’s only defense is to get this proposed terminal moved
farther away…somehow.


#   #    #

a)  “Harboring Tourism” Symposium details and registration

aa)  Story about Symposium on Cruise Ships in Historic Ports set for
Charleston – Miami Herald

1)  Charleston names top city in the world [sic] – ABC News 4

2)  Conde Nast declares Charleston top tourist city in the World – Post and

3)  Positive news for Charleston Lawsuit – National Trust for Historic

4)  Florida-Caribbean Cruise Assn. – PDF

5)  Cruise critic – reader thread

6)  Carnival Cruise Lines – Wikipedia

7)  On Earth – Can the cruise industry clean up its act?

8)  The Carnival “Dream” – Carnival website

9)  Cruise industry throttling up again…  – AOL Daily Finance

10)  Norwegian Cruise Line IPO soars 31% – USA Today

11)  International Review of Management – Dubrovnik.  (PDF Download)

12)  Groundhog Day – Jay Williams blog

13)  The SPA’s “Defiant”  – Jay Williams blog

14)  It’s all ao Unnecessary – Jay Williams blog

15)  The Future isn’t what it Used to Be – The Charleston Mercury

Charleston Not Alone in Cruise Tourism Challenges/Concerns

Cruise conference to address concerns in Charleston and abroad

VENICE, Italy — More than two dozen residents gathered in a bar on the east side of this city earlier this month to plot the course of their year-old effort to fight the ever larger cruise ships arriving here.

In a corner, a slide projector flashed images of many of them sailing small boats, waving “No Grandi Navi (No Big Ships)” flags.

The talk centered on strategies to push back at cruise ships when the mega-ships return in bulk in a few months.

Some specific concerns include the ships clogging the city’s canals, polluting the lagoon’s delicate marine environment and harming the foundations of the city’s historic architecture.

The debate over these ships, which can dwarf this medieval city’s skyline, heated up further after the Costa Concordia cruise liner ran aground off the Italian island of Giglio last year.

Clearly, concern over cruise ships isn’t limited to Charleston.

But Charleston soon will take center stage in the international debate over how best to balance cruise tourism and preservation concerns in the historic port cities where the ships often call.
‘Harboring Tourism’

On Feb. 6-8, the Francis Marion Hotel will be the scene of an international conference hosted by the World Monuments Fund, the Preservation Society of Charleston and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The event isn’t designed simply to bash the cruise ship industry, said Erica Avrami, research and education director with the World Monuments Fund.

In fact, Craig Milan, a Miami-based consultant to the cruise travel industry, will give the keynote address the first night.

“We recognize that tourism is a major generator of revenue in the world,” she said. “It’s an important partner to heritage preservation — the two really do go hand in hand.”

But she said the tourism must be sustainable, too.

“We just realized there hadn’t been enough focus on cruise tourism in historic places,” she said, explaining the purpose of the “Harboring Tourism” conference. “What I’m hearing is that there are places all around the world that are grappling with similar issues.”
Finding a balance

Charleston isn’t necessarily the city with the greatest cruise ship problem.

Evan Thompson, director of the Preservation Society of Charleston, said Venice is a better example of the potential harm from cruise ships, and Venetian architect Paolo Motta is set to deliver the event’s main lecture on Feb. 7.

Other cities have had their own issues, such as Mobile, Ala., which invested more than $20 million in the Alabama Cruise Terminal only to see its main cruise line pull out, posing a financial headache in covering the debt.

Alaska, Mexico and Costa Rica have their own challenges and are scheduled to send speakers to the event.

“Venice is indeed a sort of poster child for the heritage community because Venice is so iconic from a heritage perspective,” Avrami said, “but this is something that historic ports around the world have been grappling with.”

“We suddenly realized there really hasn’t been a lot of concentrated dialogue on best practices when it comes to historic ports,” she said.
Waking up

Anthony C. Wood, a New York-based preservation educator, historian and activist, has visited Charleston regularly for more than a decade.

He recalled waking up one morning in his room at the Francis Marion Hotel.

“I remember the next morning going to the window, and had this sudden shock,” he said. “I thought, ‘Who let them build that high rise since I last came to Charleston?’ Then I realized, that wasn’t a high rise. It was a cruise ship. The impact was something you couldn’t ignore. It’s a very serious issue.”

Charleston might not have the world’s greatest problems with cruise ships — the number calling here in a year is still well below what even opponents concede is a reasonable limit — but it is the first historic city to be added to the World Monuments Fund “Watch List” specifically because of the threat of cruise ships.
Ahead of the game

The cruise debate has raged here for a few years and has triggered multiple lawsuits, two of which are still pending. Dozens of homeowners in the historic district fly banners with a slash mark over a cruise ship’s smokestack.

A coalition of residents and environmental and preservation groups are pushing the city and port to enact a legally enforceable cap to ensure that no more than an average of two cruise ships call here in a week and that no ships arrive with more than 3,500 passengers.

They also want cruise ships to plug into the city’s electrical grid at port instead of burning their own fuel to limit air pollution, and they want the city to collect a fee to offset its cost of managing cruise visits, among other things.

Avrami said the conference will capture the discussions and publish them online, but it has another goal.

“In the long term, we’re hoping that having this symposium in Charleston will help to foster better dialogue and help bring more knowledge to the table so negotiated solutions can be found to the existing situation in Charleston, which I know is rather tense,” she said.

Wood, who plans to participate in the conference, said Charleston has built an incredible tourism brand — it has earned the No. 1 spot in the world in Conde Nast’s most recent visitors’ poll — but there’s no guarantee it will remain on top.

“You don’t want people saying things bout Charleston that they’re now saying about Key West because of the impact of cruise ships. Or Venice,” he said. “You want to get ahead of the game on this.”

But the prospects for a breakthrough here are uncertain. While the conference has sought a range of perspectives, neither State Ports Authority officials nor Charleston Mayor Joe Riley — the ships’ greatest defenders — are set to participate. Many local opponents are.

“Everyone hopes Charleston will get it right,” Wood said. “Hopefully, this conference will ultimately provide information that will let Charleston get it right.”



The list of those speaking at the cruise ship conference currently includes the following:

  • Carrie Agnew, Charleston Communities for Cruise Control
  • Gustavo Araoz, International Council of Monuments and Sites
  • Michelle Baldwin, Mayport Community Development Corp., Florida
  • Dana Beach, Coastal Conservation League, Charleston
  • Amos Bien, Global Sustainable Tourism Council, Costa Rica
  • William Cook, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Washington, D.C.
  • Joseph Geldhof, Law Office of Joseph W. Geldhof, Alaska
  • Tony Hiss, author of “The Experience of Place,” New York
  • Blan Holman, Southern Environmental Law Center, Charleston
  • Martha Honey, Center for Responsible Tourism, Washington, D.C.
  • Mobile, Ala., Mayor Sam Jones
  • Kristian Jørgensen, Fjord Norway
  • Paulina Kaplan, municipality of Valparaiso, Chile
  • Marcie Keever, Friends of the Earth, Berkeley, Calif.
  • Ross Klein, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, Canada
  • Craig Milan, Cruise Tourism Specialist and Travel Industry Consultant, Florida
  • Harry Miley Jr., Miley and Associates, Columbia
  • Paolo Motta, architect, Italy
  • Randy Pelzer, Charlestowne Neighborhood Association
  • Brian Scarfe, University of Victoria, Canada
  • Jamie Sweeting, advisor to Royal Caribbean
  • Evan Thompson, Preservation Society of Charleston
  • Jonathan Tourtellot, National Geographic
  • Dora Uribe, lawyer, Cozumel, Mexico
  • Anthony Wood, Ittleson Foundation and National Trust for Historic Preservation

If you go:

What: Harboring Tourism: A Symposium on Cruise Ships in Historic Port Communities.

When: Feb. 6-8.

Where: Francis Marion Hotel, King and Calhoun streets.

Hosts: Preservation Society of Charleston, World Monuments Fund and National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Cost: $300 for students and society or trust members; $350 for non-members for the full conference; $25/$30 for only Wednesday’s session; $75/$100 for only Friday’s.

more info: Visit or call 722-4630.