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How Can So Many Experts Be Wrong About the Detrimental Effects of Cruise Ship Air-Borne Emissions?

Original article can be seen here.

Could so many doctors and scientists be so wrong about the ill effects of diesel emissions on people’s health?

It would be tempting to read today’s commentary by Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Berkeley, and breathe easy about cruise ships emissions. But to do go there, you’d have to ignore the Charleston County Medical Society; the South Carolina Medical Association; the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment; the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; the Air Resources Board; the New England Journal of Medicine; the Journal of the American Medical Association; and the World Health Association.

Mr. Merrill argues that air quality in Charleston is fine, and that moving the State Ports Authority’s passenger terminal upriver 300 yards will make it even better. He says that the air meets state and federal requirements, and that cruise ships in port aren’t an issue for concern.

What he doesn’t say is that Carnival Cruise Lines, which has up to 104 cruises a year initiating in Charleston, is working to weaken federal air quality standards. Or that Carnival has helped other ports it calls on mitigate emissions by installing shoreside plug-in power. Someone there must see merit in using electricity and thus allowing cruise ships to turn off their diesel engines while docked.

The SPA contends that the cost of installing shoreside power does not justify doing it. Government standards, and a port in compliance with them, are enough to protect people who live nearby.

But the state medical association felt strongly enough about the matter to pass a resolution promoting shoreside power.

And numerous scientific research efforts have concluded, among other findings, that people who work around diesel driven equipment are more likely to develop lung cancer than those who are not exposed to diesel emissions; that diesel exhaust is associated with eye, nose, throat and lung irritation, headaches, lightheadedness and aggravated chronic respiratory problems; that fine particulate air pollution leads to an increase of lung cancer deaths and cardiopulmonary mortality; and that particulate matter is related to an increase in the risk of infant deaths.

Perhaps on Daniel Island, where Mr. Merrill lives, people don’t see it. But residents who live close to the passenger terminal complain that their porches and cars are black from the emissions. They don’t feel they can breathe a sigh of relief.

Not yet.

Vetted Air Emissions Analysis Shows Flaws in SPA Data

After several months of research and calculation, with substantial assistance from Friends of the Earth, the California Air Resources Board, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Coastal Conservation League determined that every time the Carnival Fantasy docks in Charleston, idling its one auxiliary engine for ten hours, the sulfur dioxide pollution invading the community is equal to that of more than 929,000 trucks idling for ten hours.

When the cleanest fuel regulation is phased in by the year 2015, every time the Fantasy docks in Charleston idling its one auxiliary engine for ten hours, the sulfur dioxide pollution will be equal to that of more than 34,000 trucks. That is when the ship’s fuel is at its cleanest!!


Fuel sulfur level

Grams of SO2 at berth for 10 hrs

Number of trucks idling for 10 hrs equivalent

Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) 2.7%










We highly recommend the installation of shore-side power for home-ported ships at the cruise terminal in order to address this serious problem.

The SC State Ports Authority (SPA) says the following regarding air pollution from cruise ships, and the potential of shoreside power:

  1. The SPA “evaluated shore power for its new cruise terminal. The engineering cost estimate was $5.6 million for on-terminal improvements alone. Additionally, the location for a new substation that would be needed to supply the power has not yet been identified or planned.”
  2. Shoreside power’s “cost is astronomical for the relatively small environmental benefit.”
  3. The tricounty area is in compliance with federal air quality standards, so there is nothing to worry about.
  4. Only one port on the U.S. east/gulf coasts has shore-side power.


What is wrong with the above statements from the SPA?

  1. In a Post and Courier article from last year, reporter Robert Behre asked SCE&G about the topic and wrote the utility “would have to enlarge its electrical service to the port site, and the utility would consider doing so, if asked.” There is currently a substation adjacent to the Columbus Street Terminal.
  2. The Coastal Conservation League submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the SPA in March 2012 for any and all information the port had about the investment and implementation of shoreside power, including studies and research. Nowhere in the responsive documents was there a fact-based evaluation by the SPA for shorepower for its new cruise terminal, any engineering estimates, or identification of substations, locations, etc.
  3. In contrast, the Southern Environmental Law Center submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the City of Charleston, and obtained communication from a shorepower company sent to Mayor Riley, in which the author explained he also contacted port representatives on the matter to provide them with a solution.
  1. The Port of New York/New Jersey conducted an analysis of shoreside power, and installed it based on the fact that the citizens near the cruise terminal would save $9 million in health costs per year.
  2. Other cities have shoreside power even when they are meeting federal air quality standards. For 2012, the cities of Juneau, San Diego, and Seattle are in PM 2.5 compliance. San Diego and Seattle, as well as San Francisco and Brooklyn, are meeting PM 10 standards. All of these cities, plus Los Angeles, are in compliance with sulfur oxide standards.
  3. Localized impacts from air pollution occur regardless of whether an area is in compliance with National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Thousands of peer-reviewed studies have proven this over the years.  The closer people are to the source of the pollution, the greater their risk for serious health problems stemming from the particle pollution in diesel soot. Particle pollution causes things like asthma, asthma attacks, heart attacks, and premature death. Soot from diesel may be more toxic than particle pollution from other dangerous sources—studies indicate that particulate pollution from mobile combustion sources increases daily mortality three times as much as the particulate pollution from coal, and it is probably because fresh diesel exhaust is comprised of particles so small they invade lung tissue and enter the bloodstream, causing effects like cardiovascular inflammation or blood clots.
  4. The World Health Organization in 2012 officially classified diesel as a carcinogen.
  5. When it comes to the implementation of shoreside power, Brooklyn is so far the only east coast/gulf coast port in the United States that has completed installation. However other ports, such as Port Everglades, are considering it. Other cruise ports in North America that have implemented shoreside power are Seattle, Vancouver, Juneau, San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles. Tacoma has invested in shorepower for cargo ships. In Europe, several Italian ports have invested in the technology for cargo ships, and the press recently announced a pilot project for onshore power supply facilities at terminals in the Ports of Immingham, Gothenburg, and Ghent. The State of California has mandated the phasing in of shorepower at all terminal facilities over the next few years.


Click here for the full report.

Conde Nast declares Charleston top tourist city in the world- in today’s P&C. “Conservationist Dana Beach, who favors regulating the cruise-ship industry in Charleston, said the recognition was deserved partly because of past decisions that preserved much of the city’s historic character, one of the main tourist draws of Charleston.”

…Conservationist Dana Beach, who favors regulating the cruise-ship industry in Charleston, said the recognition was deserved partly because of past decisions that preserved much of the city’s historic character, one of the main tourist draws of Charleston.

“It should inspire us to take stock about what people love about Charleston and make sure we preserve that,” Beach said. “When you are high-profile and that well-regarded, a city can overdo it in any aspect of tourism. We don’t have to go after everything. We have a gold-plated brand. We can pretty much set our own standards that make Charleston such a wonderful place to live and visit.”

Read the entire article.

Read “A food revolution in Charleston, US” in theguardian- a British magazine. “…gourmet hotspot…Sexiest City in America…(and) a cruise liner parked in the harbour looms over the rooftops and spires like an ocean-going Godzilla.”

Of the many accolades bestowed on Charleston, South Carolina, the most prestigious is probably Best City in America (in the eyes of the readers of Condé Nast Traveller, anyway). But I’m more interested in two of its more specific boasts: its growing reputation as a gourmet hotspot – where slow-cooked, traditional Southern food is experiencing a revival – and the fact that it was voted Sexiest City in America by the readers of Travel + Leisure magazine. What more incentive does a greedy single girl need to head down south?

Before I’ve had a chance to size up the local talent, I am seduced by the prettiness of the genteel port city itself. Founded by the English in 1670, it has picturesque streets lined with palm trees and original, old-timey gas lamps, in front of pastel-painted townhouses with pillars and porches, just begging for a languid afternoon spent lounging with a mint julep. Still so low-rise is the perfectly preserved city that a cruise liner parked in the harbour looms over the rooftops and spires like an ocean-going Godzilla.

Read more.

“Most oppose SC passenger cruise terminal at hearing”- an Associated Press article in P&C.

About 100 people turned out at a public hearing Wednesday on a proposed $35 million South Carolina passenger cruise terminal and most who spoke urged regulators not to issue a required state permit for the project.

“The public should know the pros and cons of the proposed site,” said Carrie Agnew, executive director of a nonprofit called Charleston Communities for Cruise Control.


In P&C: “Plaintiffs: SC cruise case should be heard in DC”-

“…the plaintiffs say the case has national significance because the corps’ permitting should consider the impacts of projects on historic areas. They say that applies not only in Charleston but nationwide.”  Read moreP&C, Wednesday, September 5, 2012.

Third public hearing set for Charleston cruise terminal.

The public will get another chance to weigh in on a new cruise ship terminal being proposed for the Charleston peninsula.

Read more and get information on time and location of DHEC hearing.