The future isn’t what it used to be- a guest editorial by Jay Williams in Charleston Mercury: “The array of evidence presented during the past year allows for only one conclusion.”

The future isn’t what it used to be, Charleston Mercury, May 16, 2012, editorial. 

Mayor Joseph Riley and supporters of an unregulated cruise ship terminal at Union Pier advanced their key arguments during a hearing conducted last month by the federal Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management.

The “we-know-better” argument went like this: “I was born in Charleston, my family has worked on the docks for years … and you got here late.” Or, “This has been a maritime city for 300 years…” This argument would be terrific if the maritime traffic and the ships were remotely the same as 300 years ago. Or even 30 years ago. But ships today don’t look like the Spirit of South Carolina. And, cruise ships have nothing in common with cargo shipping except that both ships float.

Cruise ships have thousands of passengers who must be accommodated and managed; cargo ships don’t.

The modern cruise industry was born just 40 years ago when Carnival Cruise Lines was formed. Carnival’s promise to “give the passenger a fun-filled vacation at a price they can afford” revolutionized the industry. Unlike the “past,” today’s cruise ships are carefully constructed floating cities, carefully designed to capture passengers’ interest, attention and money — beginning with the lobby bar up to the top deck spa, with casinos, upscale restaurants, “shopping streets,” pools, waterslides, nightclubs, live shows, music and more beckoning from every deck in between.

 

Sure, there were passenger ships 100 years ago, but they were tiny compared to Carnival’s 100-ship fleet. The Titanic, the largest ship afloat in 1912, weighed 46,000 tons, had 9 decks, and was 882 feet long. Compare that to the Carnival Fantasy, home-ported in Charleston and one of Carnival’s smallest ships: 70,367 tons, 14 decks, 855 feet long. But the Fantasy is Carnival’s oldest ship. The newer Carnival Dream-class of ships is far larger: 130,000 tons, 1004 feet long with 3,646 passengers and crew of 1,367.

Somehow Mayor Riley had the temerity to say, “It is the same business, the same cruise activity, that is currently going on in Charleston.” It’s not “the same business.” The cruise industry grew eight percent in 2011 and will grow another six percent this year! The cruise industry is like nothing from the past — new ships are vastly larger in size and scale. As Boeing’s new 787 “Dreamliner” dwarfs the old 707, ever-larger cruise ships should only be expected here, especially with the widening of the Panama Canal.

Let’s turn this line of discussion on its head. Charleston could put the cruise terminal anywhere — almost 50 percent of the South Carolina State Ports Authority terminal space is unused or underused. So why would any historic city risk building a cruise terminal downtown after witnessing the environmental damage already done by cruise ship terminals near the hearts of Venice, Key West and other cities?

What about the “Jobs Argument?” No one actually said, “Jobs, not snobs,” but they came close. The reality is that there will be just as many jobs — likely more — if the terminal were moved north to Columbus Street or to the Veterans Terminal. And any economic benefits from cruise ships would be increased. Why? Because there the demands for regulations and controls would be reduced — the larger ships could come in without damaging historic Charleston or displacing other tourists. The “Jobs Argument” is specious.

There was the nonsensical “no-soot argument.” “I work with 85 percent of the cruise ships that come in here, and I park my white truck right next to them. It never gets soot on it.” Perhaps, sir, that’s because the top deck of the ship rises 130 feet above the water — and the Fantasy’s tail — where the soot belches out — rises still higher. Do cruise ship passengers get soot on them? No. But that soot — with heavy carcinogen-laden particles — drifts over Ansonborough. Park your white truck there.

There was the “it’s only a one-berth terminal” argument. That’s not true, either. The pier at Union Pier is 1,800 feet. You now know that the Fantasy is 855 feet long. You do the math. Apparently no one else can.

And, finally, consider the argument of “Five pilings are all we’re talking about.” Five pilings didn’t bring 200 people out during their dinner hour. The new ship terminal would be far bigger than the older one, facilitating an increasing, uncontrollable level of cruise ship traffic and tourism that, on top of traditional tourism, will overrun Charleston’s geographically limited space and resources to handle.

The proponents didn’t mention the recently released Miley & Associates study on Charleston cruise ship tourism. That study shatters the illusion that home-ported cruise ship tourism brings millions into the local economy: Fantasy cruise passengers spend just $66 a day vs. $718 a day for traditional tourists. Worse, the Fantasy is not provisioned locally, but from Florida, and most of the passengers who spend a night before boarding go to less expensive North Charleston motels that give them free weekly parking and a shuttle to their “Fun Ship.” Cruisers come to Charleston mostly to sail away and spend their money elsewhere.

The array of evidence presented during the past year allows for only one conclusion. Once a cruise ship terminal is built downtown at Union Pier, the result will be a historic, environmental, cultural and financial disaster for downtown and Historic Charleston. If you’re looking back at the past 300 years of maritime history, you won’t believe that. But if you’re looking ahead at the growth of the modern cruise-tourism industry, you will.

Jay Williams, Jr., a radio broadcast consultant, member of the Charlestowne Neighborhood Association, regularly blogs on Charleston’s proposed cruise ship terminal. His blogs may be found at CharlestonCruiseControl.org under “Jay’s Blog.”

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Today’s P&C editorial: Cruise concerns are worldwide- Those with concerns about a growing cruise industry aren’t small in number after all.

“Cruise Concerns are worldwide- Those with concerns about a growing cruise industry aren’t small in number after all “,
P&C
, May 13, 2012, Editorial. 

Those local people who have concerns about the negative impact of a growing cruise industry are in good company. Worldwide company. Company in such places as Venice, Italy; Key West, Fla.; and Dubrovnik, Croatia. Preservationists from those and other places around the globe are so concerned about the ill effects of cruise ships on the cities where they call that they are planning to gather in Charleston in November to learn from each other.

In the lead will be the Preservation Society of Charleston, fulfilling its role as an advocate for maintaining the city’s historic nature and buildings. A network of people fear that the traffic, congestion, pollution and visual impact of increasinlgy large cruise ships would damage the city. They want reasonable, enforceable limits.

Still, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley told reporter Robert Behre that those who want the industry regulated are a small minority, and that they have not compromised plans for a new cruise ship terminal. The SPA is proceeding with its plans with the city’s support.

The race has begun. The city and SPA have no plans to delay their business plan. Preservationists, neighborhood groups and conservationists want to slow the process until their concerns have been addressed.

National Trust for Historic Preservation Director Stephanie Meeks spoke to the Preservation Society on Thursday. She mentioned the cruise issue only briefly, but what she didn’t say spoke volumes: She didn’t say that the Trust has removed Charleston from its watch list for endangered places. It remains there, just as it remains on a similar list of the World Monuments Fund.

The question is whether advocates for cruise limitations can forestall SPA long enough for the November conference to produce recommendations.

Ms. Meeks said that Charleston has set standards for historic preservation. There is reason to hope that the international conference here will come up with ideas worth waiting for. The city and the SPA should be as receptive as the preservation community.

 Copyright, 2012, The Post and Courier. All Rights Reserved.

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Cruise foes zero in on Charleston: International conference to be held here- front page article in P&C

Post and Courier, May 11, 2012, ROBERT BEHRE

Charleston is not alone in grappling with the potential harm from a growing cruise ship industry, and the city will host an international conference of preservationists this fall to delve into the issue. The conference was announced Thursday during a Preservation Society of Charleston meeting, where National Trust for Historic Preservation Director Stephanie Meeks spoke.

 “Charleston is an internationally important city, and there are a lot of cities that have even more experience in cruise tourism than Charleston has,” she said.

 It was Meeks’ first public appearance here since the National Trust placed the city on a new “watch status” because of concerns that its expanding cruise ship tourism could jeopardize the city’s historic character.

The trust has teamed up with local preservation groups and others to address concerns over the ships, such as their related traffic, congestion, pollution – even their visual impact on the skyline.

She offered relatively few comments on the controversy, but Preservation Society Executive Director Evan Thompson announced that the international conference would be held Nov. 14-16 at Charleston’s Francis Marion Hotel.

“In historic port cities, we’re all up against the international cruise tourism industry,” Thompson said. “If we can find a way to work together … we’ll have a much greater chance of success.”

He noted that the issue is relevant in Key West, Fla.; Mobile, Ala.; and in much-older cities such as Venice, Italy, and Dubrovnik, Croatia.

The World Monuments Fund, which also has expressed concern over cruise ships’ impact in Charleston, is a partner for the fall conference.

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, who wasn’t at the meeting, has drawn criticism from preservationists for not doing enough to regulate cruise ships. Earlier Thursday, Riley said the city and the State Ports Authority are moving ahead with plans for a new cruiseterminal that will spur the redevelopment of Union Pier.

He said the industry’s legal and political opponents have not done any damage.

“All of us are patient. We have all the patience that issue needs because what we’re doing is the right thing,” he said. “The overwhelming majority of the community is behind this.”

Riley also noted that the city’s cruise ship industry isn’t seeing unabated growth; 84 ships are set to call here this year, down from 87 last year.

Still, the society placed the Ansonborough neighborhood on its new “Seven to Save” list of historic sites worthy of attention.

Thompson said the listing is partly because Ansonborough is so close to the cruise terminal and partly because it is home to the Gaillard Auditorium, which is set for a $140 million makeover that the society wants scaled back.

While other port cities are affected by cruise ships, there’s not widespread concern voiced over them, said John Hildreth, head of the National Trust’s Eastern field office. “But there’s that potential as the cruise industry is growing and changing.”

Meeks said many historic cities have looked to Charleston to set a standard in preservation.

“If Charleston can’t figure it out,” Thompson said, “it doesn’t bode well for other less organized, but equally valuable places.”

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Ship Noise: a response to the “Cruise Critics miss the boat” commentary in P&C.

“Ship noise”, P&C, May 10, 2012, letter to the editor. 

I wonder where Robert New and Pat Barber, authors of the May 7 “Cruise critics miss the boat,” reside.

Their ignorance about the outrageous noise pollution from Carnival is far more “laughable” (their word regarding their opponents’ arguments) than Ansonborough’s efforts to protect the livability of its neighborhood.

Bruce Smith
George Street
Charleston

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“…you have to be careful that tourism doesn’t become a detriment to residents.”- A quote from Mayor Riley in today’s Savannah Morning News.

Charleston mayor: Cruise ships a ‘natural’ fit for port cities, Savannah Morning News, May 10, 2012. 

A cruise ship port would enhance tourism in an established visitor destination such as Savannah, Charleston, S.C., Mayor Joseph Riley said Tuesday.

Speaking at the Savannah Downtown Business Association’s monthly luncheon at Ruth’s Chris steakhouse, Riley said his city becoming a year-round home port for a cruise ship has “worked out very well” since Carnival stationed the Fantasy there in 2010.

“For a port city to have a cruise ship port is a natural,” Riley said. “There are some activities you can import that aren’t natural, but people have been coming to Charleston on ships since it was founded.”

Charleston has welcomed cruise ships since 1973, two years before Riley began the first of his 10 terms as the city’s mayor. Charleston served strictly as a seasonal port prior to the Carnival Fantasy’s arrival two years ago.

The city is building a new terminal, located up the Cooper River from the current home. The facility, expected to open next year, will include ample parking and cut down on traffic issues that plague downtown when the ship is in port, Riley said, yet still be close to Charleston’s popular tourism sites.

The new terminal site is seven blocks north of the Charleston City Market and adjacent to the South Carolina Aquarium.

Riley encouraged Savannah’s leaders to learn from Charleston’s recent experiences. He acknowledged the regular calls — 91 in 2011 — by the 2,675-passinger Carnival Fantasy have been met with some public angst. Many of those concerns will be addressed with the opening of the new terminal, Riley said.

“Have parking and have a traffic plan” was Riley’s advice.

Riley emphasized that tourism as a whole should serve residents. Many port cities, like Charleston and Savannah, were built to be densely populated. As residents migrated out of city centers over time and downtowns became less dense, it opened up space for visitors.

“Hotels and cruise ships and tours spit people out onto the streets who have disposable time and money in their pockets and improves livability for residents,” Riley said. “But you have to be careful that tourism doesn’t become a detriment to residents.”

Mayor Pro Tem Van Johnson, one of three aldermen to attend the luncheon along with Tony Thomas and Carol Bell, praised Riley for Charleston’s success at balancing livability with tourism.

“There are so many similarities between Savannah and Charleston,” Johnson said. “We need to continue to engage with our sister city.”

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Dana Beach’s letter responding to recent articles about shore power and clean fuel- “The cleaner ship fuel required by the new standards for 2015 would still be one hundred (100) times as dirty as diesel fuel that is currently available for use in trucks on US highways.”

Folks,

For the past two years, the city of Charleston and the State Ports Authority have argued against shore power for cruise ships (allowing the ships to turn their engines off while they are in port). They assert that shore power is unnecessary because new regulations require cleaner fuel by 2015.

The argument is flawed because “cleaner” does not mean “safe.” There would still be high levels of toxic pollutants pouring out of ship stacks in one of the most densely populated locations in South Carolina. The cleaner ship fuel required by the new standards for 2015 would still be one hundred (100) times as dirty as diesel fuel that is currently available for use in trucks on US highways.

The first editorial, from the Post and Courier, makes the case that shore power is the only way to protect the health of downtown residents and workers, especially those working the docks.

The second article from the State illustrates the profound hypocrisy of the clean fuel argument. It reports that the cruise industry, led by Carnival Cruise Lines, is spending huge amounts of money lobbying against the federal clean fuel standards. So the upshot is that Carnival, the city of Charleston and the State Ports Authority are blocking the best option for clean air in the city, shore power, at the same time Carnival is leading the charge against even the inadequate clean fuel solution proposed by the city and the SPA.

Dana


State medical association advocates for shoreside power for cruise ships, P&C,
May 6, 2012.
Cruise-ship industry fights cleaner-fuel rule, The State, May 6, 2012, RENEE SCHOOF.

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Doctors: Plug in cruise ships- State medical association advocates for shoreside power for cruise ships, today’s first editorial in P&C

State medical association advocates for shoreside power for cruise ships, P&C, May 6, 2012. 

                                                                                                   
The South Carolina Medical Association has added its eminent voice to those calling for cruise ships in Charleston to be required to use shoreside power. The State Ports Authority and the city of Charleston should heed the message.

Scientific studies have connected cruise ship emissions to numerous health problems. The SCMA House of Delegates recommends a solution: Reduce those emissions by the use of shoreside power by cruise ships at berth. During a recent meeting, its members agreed with the Charleston County Medical Society that enforceable requirements are necessary to ensure shoreside power is used. 

It’s time for the city, the SPA and local legislators to cooperate.

So far, the city and the Ports Authority have dismissed other organizations’ requests for enforceable regulations for cruise ships, including shoreside power.

The Historic Charleston Foundation, the Preservation Society of Charleston, the Ansonborough and Charlestowne neighborhood associations and the Coastal Conservation League all have asked for legal restrictions on the size, number and frequency of cruise ships visiting here. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has put Charleston on its watch list for endangered cities.

The SPA would be wrong to dismiss a recommendation to protect the health of port employees and people who live and work near the terminal. Doing so would suggest that the port of Charleston is indifferent to the community’s well-being.

Studies have linked emissions from cruise ships to asthma, bronchitis, cardiovascular disease, lung cancer and decreased lung function. Emissions into the water have been linked to bacterial and viral contamination of fish and shellfish.

One of the primary recommendations of the Natural Resources Defense Council is to limit the idling of vessels at dock by providing electric power and requiring ships to plug in instead of running engines. Cruise ships need power to operate lights, air conditioning and other systems.

Onshore power has been shown to reduce airborne pollutants by up to 90 percent. It is used by the country’s major cruise ports.

The American Medical Association also supports reducing portside air pollutants with onshore power, as do the Environmental Protection Agency, the American Lung Association and the Cruise Lines Industry Association.

Indeed, Carnival Cruise Lines itself, in its 2010 sustainability report, boasts of its efforts to be a “good corporate citizen” and “preserve the fragile ecosystems upon which we are so dependent.” As an example, the report points to Carnival committing to onshore power for ships calling at Long Beach, Calif.

Why not here?
The State Ports Authority estimated it would cost $5.6 million to provide onshore power, and Carnival Cruise Lines would have to spend about $1.5 million to retrofit the Fantasy, the cruise ship that most often calls at Charleston. The port has said the cost is too great for a “relatively small environmental benefit” in light of new federal regulations requiring cleaner fuel to be used by ships near port.

The national cruise lobby is trying to weaken those pending requirements.

It is baffling that no one — not the SPA, the city, its mayor or City Council — has made an effort to ensure best cruise ship practices in Charleston, even as plans for a new $30 million passenger terminal are advancing.

The South Carolina Medical Association’s motive in advocating for shoreside power is simple: protecting people’s health.

That should certainly be an equally important consideration for the State Ports Authority and the city of Charleston.

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Cruise-ship industry fights cleaner-fuel rule- an article in The State: “Some activists in Charleston, where cruises dock year-round, are fighting the industry on air and noise pollution.”

Cruise-ship industry fights cleaner-fuel rule, The State, May 6, 2012, RENEE SCHOOF. 

WASHINGTON — The heavy fuel that ocean-going vessels burn adds so much to air pollution hundreds of miles inland that the United States joined with Canada during President George W. Bush’s administration to ask the International Maritime Organization to create an emissions-control area along the coasts. Large ships would be required to reduce pollution dramatically in a zone 200 miles out to sea along all the coasts of North America, mainly by using cleaner fuel.

The cargo-shipping industry supported the stringent emission reductions. The cruise-ship industry, however, wants an emissions-averaging plan that would allow it to burn the same heavy fuel it always has used in some areas, and it’s lobbying Congress for help.

The industry’s lobby group in Washington has gotten Democratic and Republican lawmakers to press the Environmental Protection Agency to look favorably on the industry’s averaging plan. The EPA is pushing back, saying the industry’s plan would lead to an increase in emissions. For now, the EPA is unyielding, but pressure is building.
The emissions-control area goes into effect in August. The International Maritime Organization plan requires fuel with less sulfur inside the zone, with reductions phased in through 2015. Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed to the approach in 2006.

“The U.S. government has been firmly behind protecting its citizens from shipping pollution through negotiations with the IMO both through the Bush administration and the Obama administration, so it’s not a partisan issue,” said David Marshall of the Clean Air Task Force, an advocacy organization.

Some activists in Charleston, where cruises dock year-round, are fighting the industry on air and noise pollution.

The EPA estimated that when the emissions-control plan is fully implemented, as many as 31,000 premature deaths per year will be prevented. Cleaner air would mean fewer emergency-room visits for people with asthma and other lung diseases. The new standards also would reduce acid rain on coastal forests, lakes and crops.

The agreement requires large ships to drop the sulfur content of their fuel from 15,000 parts per million to 10,000 parts per million in August, and to 1,000 parts per million in 2015. It allows alternative approaches that get equivalent amounts of emission reductions, such as exhaust scrubbers.

Cleaner fuel costs more than the sulfur-rich bunker oil that ships use today. The EPA estimated that the price increase on a seven-day Alaska cruise would be 1.5 percent to 6 percent.

The online trade publication Sustainable Shipping reported that cruise companies don’t want to pass on too much of the cost for fear of reducing customer demand, so the industry’s profits might decline. A study for the industry projected fewer cruises to Alaska, Canada and the Caribbean, as well as job losses.

Miami-based Carnival Corp., the world’s biggest cruise company, reported $1.9 billion in profits last year. Carnival spokesman Aly Bello-Cabreriza declined to comment and referred questions to the industry lobby group, Cruise Lines International Association. Other cruise companies also declined to comment.

Cruise Lines International Association has proposed a complicated emissions-averaging plan that would allow ships to continue to burn high-sulfur fuel sometimes. An advantage would be lower costs, the association’s director of environmental and health programs, Charles Darr, said in an April PowerPoint presentation.

The method would allow a ship to vary its emissions based on such issues as weather conditions and location. Ships would switch to cleaner fuels near heavily populated areas.

Officials of the EPA and the Coast Guard opposed the Cruise Lines International Association plan in a letter March 12 to International Maritime Organization Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu.

“After analysis, we believe the cruise lines proposal is unacceptable because it would result in overall higher emissions and doesn’t meet public expectations of uniform delivery of health and environmental benefits for citizens of the United States,” wrote Jeffrey G. Lantz, the Coast Guard’s director of commercial regulations and standards, and Margo Tsirigotis Oge, the director of the EPA’s office of transportation and air quality.

Democratic Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida and Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell of Washington state also have written to the EPA asking it to consider the industry’s views. Nelson was the top Senate recipient of cruise-ship industry donations last year. He received $19,200, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group.

A bipartisan group of House members, led by John Mica, R-Fla., the chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, sent the EPA a letter of support for the cruise line association’s plan in March.

 
 
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The Future isn’t what it used to be

Two weeks ago, over 200 people, “a clear majority opposed to the new terminal,” turned out for a hearing at the old Navy Base in North Charleston conducted by the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM), the federal agency that must approve five new pilings for the proposed terminal requested by the SC State Ports Authority (SPA).(1)

Mayor Joseph Riley and other supporters of unregulated cruise ship tourism downtown spoke in favor of the proposed terminal at Union Pier. Their arguments were so weak as to invite ridicule. Let’s break ’em down.

Their “Airport” Argument goes like this, “I was born in Charleston, my family has worked on the docks for years…and you got here late…you knew the docks were here when you moved here.” Or, “This has been a maritime city for 300 years and…” This argument would be terrific if the maritime traffic and the ships were remotely as they were 300 years ago. Or 30 years ago. But the romantic sailing ships are gone; ships today don’t look like “The Spirit of South Carolina.” Cruise ships have nothing to do with cargo shipping except that both types of ships float. The modern cruise industry was born just 40 years ago, in l972, when Carnival Cruise Lines was formed.(2) Sure, there were passenger ships before then, but not on the size or scale of Carnival’s 100 ship fleet. The largest ship 100 years ago, in l912, the Titanic, weighed 46,000 tons, had 9 decks, and was 882 feet long.(3) That compares to the Carnival “Fantasy,” the oldest, and one of the smallest, ships in Carnival’s fleet that’s home-ported in Charleston: 70,367 tons, 14 decks, 855 feet long. But “‘The Fantasy,’ launched in 1990, is a floating testament to the Carnival way. Give the passenger a fun-filled vacation at a price they can afford, and they’ll be back for more!”(4) She changed the industry, so much so that Carnival built seven more ships like her before they started building even bigger ships! The Carnival “Dream” is 1004 feet long and carries 3646 passengers.(5)

Yet Mayor Riley had the temerity to say, “It is the same business, the same cruise activity, that is currently going on in Charleston.”(1) It’s a rapidly growing industry, not “the same business,” and Riley knows it. The cruise ship industry grew 8% in 2011 and another 6% this year!(6) The cruise industry is like nothing from the past, and the new ships coming on line are nothing like the “Fantasy” in size or impact; they’re bigger and bigger coming from an industry experiencing explosive growth.(7) Let’s turn the “Airport Argument” on its head. Charleston has an opportunity to move the cruise terminal anywhere–almost 50% of the State Ports Authority terminal space is unused or underused. So if any city had an opportunity to build an airport–or a cruise terminal–downtown, especially when most of the traffic from either is going somewhere else, would it? No. Is Boeing’s new Dreamliner like the planes of the past? No.

There was the “Jobs” Argument. No one actually said, “jobs, not snobs,” but they came close. The reality is that there will be just as many jobs–and likely more–if the terminal were moved north to Columbus Street or the Veterans terminal. Why? Because then the logical demands for regulations and controls would be less–and larger ships could come in without damaging historic Charleston or more profitable tourism. The “Jobs” Argument is specious.

There was the nonsensical “No Soot” Argument. “I work with 85% of the cruise ships that come in here, and I park my white truck right next to them. It never gets soot on it.” Perhaps, sir, that is because the top deck of the ship rises 40 meters, 130′, above the water–and the Carnival “Fantasy’s” tail–where the soot belches out–is well above that. Do cruise ship passengers get soot on them? No, that’s why ships have “tails” or funnels, but that soot–with heavy carcinogen-laden particles–drifts over the waterfront and Ansonborough.(8) Park your white truck there.

Then there was the “it’s only a one-berth terminal” argument. Mayor Riley said that right out of the box. That’s not true, either. The pier at Union Pier is 1800′. You now know that the “Fantasy” is 885 feet long. You do the math. Apparently no one else can.

And, finally, “five pilings is all we’re talking about” argument. Five pilings didn’t bring out over 200 people out during their dinner hour. The new ship terminal would be far bigger than the older one, facilitating an uncontrollable level of cruise ship traffic and tourism that is certain to damage Historic Charleston’s geographically limited capacity and resources to handle. At the meeting, “Downtown resident Courtenay McDowell said cruise-ship operations have approached a tipping point in the livability of the area. ‘I speak of what’s happening today in fear of what will happen tomorrow, with more cruise ships,’ she said.”

The evidence that we and others have presented over the past year allow for only one conclusion.(9) Once a cruise ship terminal is built downtown at Union Pier, the result will be an historic, environmental, cultural, and financial disaster for Charleston. If you’re looking back at the past 300 years of maritime history, you won’t believe that. But if you’re looking ahead at the growth of the modern cruise-tourism industry, you will.

Jay Williams, Jr.
# # #

 

1) “Charleston cruise ship opponents seize opportunity…” Post and Courierhttp://www.postandcourier.com/article/20120419/PC05/120419179&source=RSS
2) Carnival Corporation & plc Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnival_Corporation_%26_plc
3
) Sea-going ship sizes RPSoft2000note: weight of ships is more of a volume measurement and one-to-one comparisons are difficult
http://www.rpsoft2000.com/shipsize.htm
4
) Carnival Cruise Lines – 7 Blue Seas
http://www.7blueseas.com/cruiselines/cruiselines.asp?id=2
5
) Carnival Dream – Carnival website
http://www.carnival.com/cruise-ships/carnival-dream.aspx
6
) Safety concerns may slow cruise industry’s growth – L.A. Times
8) Reduce the risks of air pollution from cruise ships – Dr. Stephen I. Schabel
http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20120308/ARCHIVES/303089919
9
) Cruise Report Belies Claims of industry’s benefits – Post and Courier

 

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SPA thwarts efforts to pry info loose- an informative commentary by Katie Zimmerman.

State Ports Authority thwarts efforts to pry info loose, P&C, April 30, 2012, commentary, KATIE ZIMMERMAN. 

The Post and Courier’s recent series on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) highlighted one of the most important, and least appreciated, characteristics of a free society — the ability ordinary citizens should have to learn, without filters, what government is doing for them and, potentially, to them. Reinforcing The Post and Courier’s findings, the State Integrity Assessment, a project of Public Radio International, the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity, gave South Carolina an “F” for government transparency.

As James Madison said two centuries ago, “A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps, both.”

The Post and Courier’s series revealed that compliance with the Freedom of Information Act is troublingly inconsistent in South Carolina. We would like to offer some recent examples of our experiences attempting to obtain information from the South Carolina State Ports Authority (SPA). These instances reinforce the fact that our state is far from the open, transparent government that our country’s founders believed was essential to a healthy democracy.

The State Ports Authority has consistently argued that the proposed cruise ship terminal on Union Pier is the highest and best use for that property and that it has positive financial implications for the agency and for the public.

More than two years ago, we asked SPA director Jim Newsome for the documentation supporting that claim. Specifically, we asked for their projections of cruise ship revenues and expenses. Additionally, we asked for the analysis of alternative terminal sites the SPA claimed to have conducted. Months later, we received nothing in response.

Consequently, over the past two years we have submitted various FOIA requests detailing the information we would like to see. The information we have requested should help the public better understand the SPA’s decisions, and should also round out the debate on the costs and benefits of vastly increased cruise operations in Charleston.

On March 1, 2010, we asked for pro forma financial statements on the cruise ship terminal. On March 15, 2010, we requested the terminal construction schedule, and on May 7, 2010, in conjunction with the South Carolina Policy Council and the Charleston Mercury, we asked for contracts with cruise lines that visit Charleston, financial information on Union Pier cargo and cruise operations, lobbying expenses, payments to the Charleston Police Department and other information related to cruise operations.

The SPA told us much of the information we asked for was “privileged” and that they estimated that our fee would be $13,535 for the rest. (Part of the fee included research by the agency to determine what was privileged.) We subsequently reduced our request and resubmitted it. The agency again responded that much of the information was privileged and that they would not waive the fee. For the benefit of the public, this response is a serious problem — the SPA was refusing even to provide the year Carnival’s contract would end.

On Feb. 17, 2011, in conjunction with the Preservation Society of Charleston and the Southern Environmental Law Center, we made a similar, but further abbreviated, request for information about the Union Pier project.

The SPA’s response stated “most of the documents, unfortunately, are not maintained in a manner that is conducive to search by nonemployees, but require research and review of documents for responsiveness to the request, and assembly of responsive documents.” Further, they believed, some of the documents would end up being privileged anyway.

On July 25, 2011, after the SPA launched a publicity campaign designed to characterize citizens concerned about unmitigated cruise ships as “snobs” who were opposed to “jobs,” we asked for invoices from and communications with the SPA’s public relations’ firm, Rawle-Murdy.

The response we received was incomplete, and omitted a memo about a meeting between Jim Newsome, Mayor Joe Riley and Carnival Cruise Lines executives in Miami. We asked for, but have still not received, that document.

Regardless of one’s opinion about the wisdom of unregulated cruise activity in Charleston, it is indisputable that a public agency responsible for the wise investment of public funds has an obligation to justify, clearly and comprehensively, its decision to taxpayers.

At the very least, the agency should provide the documentation underlying its decisions and actions to interested citizens.

That is the simple premise behind the Freedom of Information Act.

It is unfortunate, and unacceptable, that the SPA does not recognize the central importance of transparency as we debate the future of the Port of Charleston.

Katie Zimmerman is project manager for the Coastal Conservation League.

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