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Europe Made Billions from Tourists. Now It’s Turning Them Away

Charleston needs to learn from Europe!

By Lisa Abend/Venice

July 26, 2018

In Giovanni Bonazzon’s paintings, Venice is a vision of serenity. Bridges arch gracefully over rippling canals, sunlight bounces off flower-filled balconies, and not a single human mars the tranquility.

Bonazzon’s daily vista is not as tranquil, however. An artist who paints and sells watercolors from an easel set up near San Marco Square, he has a ringside seat to the selfie-posing, ice-cream-licking hordes who roil their way daily toward the Doge’s Palace, and he readily agrees that tourism is killing his hometown.

Yet when he heard that Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro had, in the run-up to a busy weekend at the beginning of May, installed checkpoints intended to block arriving visitors from especially crowded thoroughfares (while allowing locals through), Bonazzon was dismayed. “Yes, they should control the tourists,” he says. “But they shouldn’t close Venice. We’re a city, not a theme park.”

That’s a refrain echoing in a growing number of European cities. The neoclassical gems that once made up the grand tour have been stops on package tours since the 19th century. But it’s only over the past decade or so that the number of travelers to these and other must-see destinations risks subsuming the places. Around 87 million tourists visited France in 2017, breaking records; 58.3 million went to Italy; and even the tiny Netherlands received 17.9 million visitors.

It’s happening nearly everywhere. Asia experienced a 9% increase in international visitors in 2016, and in Latin America the contribution of tourism to GDP is expected to rise by 3.4% this year. Even a devastating hurricane season couldn’t halt arrivals in the Caribbean, where tourism grew 1.7% in 2017. (The U.S., on the other hand, has seen foreign tourism drop, partly because of a strong dollar.)

But Europe is bearing the brunt. Of the 1.3 billion international arrivals counted by the U.N. worldwide last year, 51% were in Europe–an 8% increase over the year before. Americans, in particular, seem drawn to the perceived glamour and sophistication of the Old Continent (as well as the increased spending power of a strong currency). More than 15.7 million U.S. tourists crossed the Atlantic in 2017, a 16% jump in the space of a year.

With tourism in 2018 expected to surpass previous records, frustration in Europe is growing. This past spring witnessed antitourism demonstrations in many cities throughout Europe. On July 14, demonstrators in Mallorca, Spain, conducting a “summer of action” greeted passengers at the airport with signs reading tourism kills Mallorca.

In the spring, Venice introduced temporary checkpoints to prevent day trippers from crowding especially busy areas
In the spring, Venice introduced temporary checkpoints to prevent day trippers from crowding especially busy areas
Marco Zorzanello for TIME

Now, local governments are trying to curb or at least channel the surges that clog streets, diminish housing supplies, pollute waters, turn markets and monuments into no-go zones, and generally make life miserable for residents. Yet almost all of them are learning that it can be far more difficult to stem the tourist hordes than it was to attract them in the first place.

The reasons for this modern explosion in tourism are nearly as numerous as the guys selling selfie sticks in Piazza Navona. Low-cost airlines like easyJet, Ryanair and Vueling expanded dramatically in the 2000s, with competitive ticket prices driving up passenger numbers. From 2008 to 2016, the cruise-ship industry in Europe exploded, growing by 49%. Airbnb, which launched in 2008, made accommodations less expensive. Rising prosperity in countries like China and India has turned their burgeoning middle classes into avid travelers. Even climate change plays a role, as warmer temperatures extend summer seasons and open up previously inaccessible areas.

But the cities and local governments here also share responsibility for the boom, having attempted to stimulate tourism to raise money. In the decade since the financial crisis began, tourism has come to be seen by European countries as an economic lifesaver. The industry generated $321 billion for the E.U. in 2016 and now employs 12 million people. Governments in cities like Barcelona spent heavily to attract tourist dollars. “For decades, the government here was using tons of public money to attract cruise lines, new hotels, new airlines,” says Daniel Pardo, a member of the city’s Neighborhood Assembly for Sustainable Tourism. “But they didn’t think about the repercussions.”

Over the past few years, Barcelona has begun taking action to improve tourist behavior, like fining visitors who walk around the city center in their bathing suits. The current mayor, Ada Colau, has dramatically intensified that action. In January 2017, her government prohibited the construction of new hotels in the city center and prevents their replacement when old ones close. Cruise ships that stop for the day may struggle to get docking licenses, as the city prioritizes those that begin or end their journey in Barcelona. Tour groups can now visit the Boquería market only at certain times, and the city is considering measures to ensure locals can still buy raw ingredients there–and not just smoothies and paper cones of ham.

About 55,000 tourists visit Venice every day
About 55,000 tourists visit Venice every day
Marco Zorzanello for TIME

Other places are also turning to the law to reduce the number of globetrotters. Ever since its medieval center stood in for King’s Landing on Game of Thrones, the walled Croatian city of Dubrovnik has been overwhelmed by fans of the HBO series. In 2017, Dubrovnik limited the number of daily visitors to 8,000; its new mayor now seeks to halve that amount. Amsterdam, whose infamous drug culture and picturesque canals drew at least 6 million foreign visitors to the city in 2016, has adopted a carrot-and-stick approach. The Dutch capital has introduced fines for rowdy behavior and banned the mobile bars known as “beer bikes,” while simultaneously attempting to lure visitors to less congested sites like Zandvoort, a coastal town 17 miles from the city center that has been rebranded Amsterdam Beach, through apps and messaging systems.

The city has also raised its tourist tax to 6%, joining several other cities and some countries that aim to control visitor numbers with higher levies. At the start of 2018, Greece imposed its first tourist tax, which ranges from roughly 50 cents a night to four euros. In Iceland, which receives nearly seven times as many visitors as it has residents, lawmakers will consider a tax this fall on tourists coming from outside of Europe.

Yet even in liberal Europe, not every government is willing to raise taxes. Authorities in the Lofoten Islands in northern Norway beseeched the government to raise levies after more than a million tourists visited in 2017, thanks in part to the movie Frozen. The 25,000 inhabitants found their single main road and its sparse facilities completely overwhelmed.

When Norway said no to higher taxes, the locals were forced to take matters into their own hands. “We’ve organized community volunteers to build trails and haul trash,” says Flakstad Mayor Hans Fredrik Sordal. “In summer, we’re opening the school toilets to the public. And we’re asking tourists for volunteer contributions.”

For locals in these places, anger at the ever-expanding rates of tourism can be placated by the money there is to be made out of catering to them. The advent of Airbnb has created a revenue stream for city-center residents with spare bedrooms and second properties. The company sees itself as an answer to tourism overcrowding rather than a net contributor. “We are convinced our community can be a solution to mass tourism,” wrote company founder Nathan Blecharczyk in a May report, “and that it enables sustainable growth that benefits everyone.”

Yet some people benefit more than others. Canny investors buy up residential properties in desirable locations and convert them into tourist apartments, provoking housing shortages and pushing up prices. Again, some cities have taken action. Copenhagen, for example, has limited the number of days per year that owners can rent out their residences. Barcelona has targeted Airbnb itself, forcing it to share data about owners and remove listings for unlicensed apartments. It has also launched a website where visitors can check if a potential apartment is legally registered. But speculators are hard to deter, especially as Airbnb doesn’t require owners to reside in housing that is rented through the site.

Balancing the needs of locals with the demands of tourists is a challenge across Europe but perhaps nowhere more so than in Venice, where more than 20 million tourists crowd the piazzas and canals every year. When the city’s mayor attempted to install checkpoints to potentially shut main thoroughfares to tourists, the initiative was greeted by protests from locals, who saw the surprise measure as an attempt to close the city. “We tried to do something for the city, for the residents,” laments Paola Mar, Venice’s deputy mayor for tourism. “This measure was for them, for their safety. But in Italy, you’re only good if you do nothing.”

Venice has not done nothing. The local government has restricted the construction of new hotels and takeout restaurants, and created a fast lane for residents on public transport. It has a plan in place to ease congestion by diverting foot and boat traffic on exceptionally crowded days this summer, and now employs 22 stewards in vests that read #EnjoyRespectVenezia to prevent tourists sitting on monuments, jumping in the canal, or otherwise misbehaving.

Barcelona now limits tour-group access to the Boquería market
Barcelona now limits tour-group access to the Boquería market
Paolo Verzone—Agence Vu for TIME

But imposing too many restrictions risks alienating the residents who depend on access to tourist dollars; across the E.U., 1 in 10 nonfinancial enterprises now serves the industry. In Venice, a proposal to ticket the entrance to San Marco Square has run into resistance from shopkeepers. And the subject of restricting cruise-ship access is a touchy one. “You have to know, 5,000 people work with the cruise ships,” says Mar, who notes that the city council has asked the government to move large ships from the San Marco basin. “If we want people to stay in Venice, they have to have jobs.”

And therein lies a hint of what is at stake. Venice has been losing residents for decades, dropping from nearly 175,000 in 1951 to around 55,000 now. The city seems close to uninhabitable in certain areas–its streets too crowded to stroll down, its hardware shops and dentist offices replaced by souvenir stalls. The same cycle threatens Barcelona and Florence; tourism drives locals out of the center, which then leaves even more spaces to be colonized by restaurants and shops that cater to tourists. Annelies van der Vegt understands the sentiment. A musician, she lives in the center of Amsterdam but is tired of finding entire tour groups on her doorstep, gaping at her 17th century house. “I’m thinking of moving to Norway,” she says.

When the residents leave and the visitors take over, what is left behind can lose some of its charm. One day in May, Susana Alzate and Daniel Tobón from Colombia waited on Venice’s Rialto Bridge as first a gaggle of Israeli Orthodox Jews, then a tide of Indian Sufis jostled by. Finally, the couple found a slot on the railing, struck a pose and shot their Instagram story. “It’s beautiful,” said Alzate as she gazed out on the Grand Canal. “But I would never come back. Too many tourists.”

This appears in the August 06, 2018 issue of TIME.


It’s time for the SPA to sell Union Pier

By Jay Williams, Jr.

As Venice, Italy plans a multi-billion dollar mainland cruise terminal in response to cruise ship damage to the historic island city, the South Carolina State Ports Authority (SPA) is fixated on opening a new cruise terminal as close as possible to Charleston’s Historic District.

As Venetian officials voted to divert large cruise ships weighing over 96,000 tons away from St. Mark’s Square, the Grand Canal and the Ducal Palace, Carnival Cruise Lines announced that the 103,000 ton Carnival Sunshine will be home-ported near the end of Market Street.

As “Venice has faced an onslaught of tourism that has challenged the city’s character, clogged its narrow waterways and chased its local population away,” reports The New York Times, “There emerged no clearer symbol for the invasion of tourists than the cruise ships drifting, lunar-like, through the lagoon. They eclipsed church towers, famous views and, occasionally, the sun.”

Ironically, it’s the Sunshine, the largest Carnival ship ever home-ported here, that will block our sun and views. She accommodates 3,002 passengers, 50 percent more than the Ecstasy she’ll replace.

Charleston is sailing backwards, refusing to grasp the enormous damage the worldwide cruise industry has inflicted on historic port cities. We must confront the issue of a downtown cruise terminal head on.

Since 2011, citizens opposing the Union Pier site have proposed an elementary solution: Locate the new cruise terminal away from historic downtown. Potential sites include the Columbus Street Terminal, now mostly used as a parking lot and a shipping site for BMWs and the 110-acre Veterans Terminal at the old Navy base, not used for much of anything, yet near highways and able to handle cruise traffic without creating congestion.

Predictably, the SPA has repulsed every suggestion offered to mitigate the impacts of a cruise terminal downtown, including shore power and that includes moving it.

Now there’s a new question: Is the SPA attempting to ensure that it can’t be moved?

Last December, the SPA announced that it was selling 7.2 acres along with a 9,100 square foot building on Morrison Drive at the entrance to the Columbus Street Terminal. This on-street parcel, well away from downtown, would have provided an ideal entry for cruise terminal traffic.

Then last month, the SPA announced that it’s been negotiating a land swap that would hand over the Veterans Terminal to the Coast Guard and Homeland Security. Yet “in 2016,” reported the Post and Courier, “the SPA objected to a proposal to locate a new cruise ship facility at Veterans Terminal, saying that repairs would cost too much and that the terminal would play a key role in supporting a new cargo terminal being built at the nearby former Navy Base.”

The explosive growth in cruise travel

In May, 2015, SPA CEO James Newsome told city council that the “one sector that has not grown at all is the cruise sector” citing similar passenger counts of 186,000 for both 2011 and 2015. “It’s not a growth industry, we’ve said that from the start.” He added, “The market for cruise ships in this port is not that big, it will never be that big.”

Later in that speech, Newsome said that “In 2010 … we had 67 cruise ships.” What he didn’t say was that in 2015, Charleston would host 93 ships.

This year we’ve reached the SPA’s voluntary annual limit of 104 ships, for the second year in a row. And starting next year, Carnival predicts that the Sunshine alone will carry 220,000 passengers annually — “roughly matching the total number of passengers all ships brought to Charleston last year.” That’s a significant jump, because an additional 28 non-Carnival ships will visit Charleston this year.

Worldwide, cruise passengers soared from 4 million in 1990 to 25 million today.

Cruise passenger growth troubles many downtown residents. Although the SPA voluntarily agreed to limits of 104 ships annually with a maximum of 3,500 passengers per ship, those limits aren’t binding. A much-heralded city ordinance didn’t codify those limits as many thought; it only obligated the SPA notify the city a year in advance if it wants to break through those limits.

So far, the SPA has lived up to its voluntary limits and claims that will continue. Yet the SPA is still awaiting permission to build a terminal downtown at Union Pier, with an existing 1800-foot pier that can dock the world’s biggest ships.

If the SPA’s terminal application survives a citizens’ appeal in the S.C. Supreme Court and if its application is approved by the Army Corps of Engineers — in other words, if the SPA gets everything it wants — what will happen to those voluntary limits?

It’s not just the added traffic, noise, pollution, the high potential for irreversible environmental damage to the Historic District and the ever-growing discharge of cruise passengers onto our small-scale city that so strongly argues against a downtown cruise terminal. It’s economics and common sense.

That 63-acres on Union Pier may represent the most prized undeveloped waterfront property in the Southeast.

“It’s quite valuable,” one prominent commercial broker said, “it would depend on building heights and zoning allowed, of course, but harbor and waterfront property is very, very hard to come by. And private development is certainly a higher and better use than industrial or a cruise terminal.”

Hard evidence supports that opinion — the SPA’s 3.5-acre Concord Street waterfront headquarters sold for $38 million.

The lowest and worst use

The SPA plans to develop the southern 40 acres of the property. But using the remaining 23 prime acres for a cruise terminal, especially with nine acres of paved surface parking for cruise passengers, must be the lowest and worst use for this exceptional property.

“Acres of land for surface parking there is illogical,” said Jason Crowley, director of Communities and Transportation for the Coastal Conservation League, “and it doesn’t make any sense to sell any SPA property until we have a solution to the cruise terminal location that the city is involved in.”

“We should be addressing our resilience issues and restoring the shoreline back to a spongy, natural state that can absorb the velocity of water as it comes in,” Crowley said. Union Pier’s “hard edge” and acres of pavement that allows the water to “run off and flood our streets,” is inimical to resilience planning.

The SPA’s Newsome, quoted about an entirely different parcel, said selling off that property “will allow us to focus on our business as well as benefit the economy by returning public property to the local tax base.”

Union Pier is also “public property,” and the SPA can no longer stonewall public involvement. And the terminal’s “hard edge” with nine acres of paved parking is inexcusable and unacceptable.

Cruise ships represent just five percent of SPA revenues, the city receives no passenger revenue whatsoever and because Carnival passengers sail to become tourists in Nassau or Freeport, they don’t spend much money here.

A cruise terminal at Union Pier would constitute a misuse of this exceptional property, yet a planned 63-acre downtown development would transform the city, adding millions in tax revenues.

Charleston can’t afford this terminal plan. And if we don’t stop it, Venice won’t be the only city under water.

Jay Williams, Jr. arrived in Charleston in 2001 to escape the cold and relax in the warmth of a better culture and climate. This all worked well until May of 2011 when he attended a cruise terminal discussion at Physicians Hall.


Click to view article in full.



Charleston cruise ship terminal opponents want another shot at appeal

Petitioning the S.C. Court of Appeals to revisit a case it’s already ruled on is typically a futile formality on the way to asking the state’s highest court for a review.

Such rehearings are rarely granted.

But last week’s petition, filed by opponents of a new cruise ship terminal at the Port of Charleston‘s Union Pier near the historic City Market, provides a preview of the arguments those groups will make if the S.C. Supreme Court later decides to take the case.

The appeals court last month ruled the opponents — they include environmental, neighborhood and historic preservation groups — do not have a legal right to stop the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control from issuing a permit the State Ports Authority needs to build the $35 million terminal.

Those opponents, in their petition for rehearing, say the court’s three-judge panel made numerous mistakes in coming to their conclusion.

For example, the judges said the increased noise, pollution, traffic congestion and aesthetic harm opponents say a new terminal would bring are “generalized complaints” that aren’t sufficient to establish direct harm to the groups that are suing.

“In fact, each of the individual members of the community groups that provided affidavits described concrete and particularized injuries that they would personally suffer,” Southern Environmental Law Center lawyer Blan Holman, who represents the opposition groups, wrote in last week’s petition.

Those opponents say they’re already experiencing sore throats caused by cruise ship emissions, oily soot landing on their homes and property and other issues with cruise operations at the SPA’s current terminal a few hundred feet south of the proposed site. A bigger terminal, they say, would lead to even bigger problems.

Each of these people, Holman wrote, have “demonstrated injury from the cruise terminal in a personal and individualized way.”

The judges also said opponents must prove their business or property values have declined as a direct result of the new terminal — something Holman said is “difficult if not impossible” to do because the terminal hasn’t been built.

Holman also said in his petition that opponents were already granted the right to challenge a permit for the new terminal during a separate, but related, federal court hearing — something the appeals court judges ignored, he added.

He wants the appeals court to reverse its earlier decision and give terminal opponents the right to fight the DHEC construction permit. The SPA has not filed a response to the petition, but previously said it is “gratified” by the October ruling.

The long-running legal dispute centers around a permit that DHEC issued in 2012 allowing the SPA to place five additional clusters of support pilings beneath an older warehouse at the north end of Union Pier. That’s where the maritime agency wants to build a new terminal, replacing a nearby 1970s-era building used mostly by Carnival Cruise Line and its Ecstasy cruise ship.

The pilings are needed, according to court documents, to support three elevators and two escalators. The new site would be more than three times larger than the existing terminal.

Groups including the Coastal Conservation League, the Preservation Society of Charleston and others filed a lawsuit opposing DHEC’s ruling, but a state Administrative Law Court judge ruled the groups did not have a right to sue. Those groups then filed their appeal.

Holman has said the groups would support a terminal farther north from the city’s Historic District, but SPA officials say Union Pier is the only site available for construction.

The SPA also needs a federal permit to proceed with the project. The Army Corps of Engineers is reviewing an application for that permit but has not set a timetable for its decision. A previous permit application was tossed out by a federal judge in 2013 because the proposal did not consider the terminal’s impact on the city’s Historic District.

click to view article


State Appeal Hearing… Thank you SELC & SCELP!!

Thanks to ALL those who attended! We took up most of the courtroom….Here is the full article:



Appeals court hears argument on cruise ships in Charleston

COLUMBIA — The state Court of Appeals heard arguments Wednesday in the long-running debate over a new cruise ship terminal in Charleston’s Historic District.

There is no deadline for the court to make its ruling, and it could take a year or more.

The arguments centered on whether the Preservation Society of Charleston, Coastal Conservation League and residents of the city’s historic district have the right to sue the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control for issuing a 2012 permit to the State Ports Authority for support pilings beneath an old warehouse at Union Pier.

That is where the Ports Authority wants to build a new, larger terminal for cruise ships, about 100 feet north of its current terminal.

The group of preservationists and conservationists filed a lawsuit challenging DHEC’s permit because they feel a larger terminal in the Historic District would exacerbate problems like pollution and traffic.

A state Administrative Law Court judge previously ruled the groups did not have a right to sue. Those groups filed their appeal in 2014, but the appeals court delayed hearing the oral arguments repeatedly.

Blan Holman, a lawyer with the Southern Environmental Law Center representing the plaintiffs, reiterated concerns about the proposed terminal Wednesday to the panel of three judges. He said if residents may challenge a permit for a liquor store near their homes, they also should be allowed to challenge a permit for a large cruise ship terminal nearby.

“These are not cargo ships. They are floating towns with more people than Sullivan’s Island,” Holman said.

He added that residents who live near the docked ships deal with soot from the exhaust pipes in the air and on their properties, potentially harming their health.

“These people are experiencing harm directly on their person and in their homes,” he said. “They are entitled to have a hearing from an administrative law judge.”

Attorney Chad Johnston of Willoughby & Hoefer PA of Columbia represented the SPA. He said the Administrative Law Court was right to dismiss the lawsuit because those residents and groups will not be harmed by future cruise ship operations.

“The Ports Authority submits that the cruise industry is a valuable part of its business model, and it will continue to accept cruise ships at its current location or at the new one, regardless of what happens in this case,” Johnston said.

 In addition to the state permit, the Ports Authority also needs a federal permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to move forward with the new terminal. A previous federal permit application was tossed out by U.S. District Judge Gergel, who ruled that it did not properly consider the impacts the new facility would have on the city’s Historic District.

The Army Corps is now reviewing a new application.

Bradley Churdar, DHEC’s attorney, argued Wednesday that the state’s permit should not be vacated simply because a previous federal permit had been. He also said the Administrative Law Court decision is not subject to appeal.

Chief Judge James E. Lockemy asked Holman what he thought might happen if that court’s ruling is upheld.

“I believe if we were found to not have standing … we would have fewer rights than the person who challenges the liquor store on the corner,” Holman said. “It’s taking away these taxpaying, property-holding citizens’ rights to participate in an administrative process.”


Barcelona Shows Charleston What it Needs to Do….

There was a time when Charleston was at the forefront of maintaining the balance between tourism and quality of life….of protecting the city’s historic integrity while encouraging others to appreciate it.

Now we have to hope our elected officials will learn from others.  Barcelona is the latest.  Read here for more!


Free Shuttle to State Appeal Hearing 2/15/17

Join us in Columbia for the State Appeal hearing!! Please sign up for the free shuttle….we must have a final head count by Saturday, February 11.

Click here to join us


Oral arguments in the cruise terminal state permit case before the SC Court of Appeals in Columbia, SC on February 15, at noon. A free shuttle has been organized by Charleston Communities for Cruise Control and the Coastal Conservation League to take those interested in being present to and from Columbia. A reservation is required so the appropriate size bus is reserved. Please do so via the link below before February 11!

This is an appeal of a decision by S.C. Administrative Law Judge R. K. Anderson III holding that the groups lacked “standing” to challenge the legality of permits for the proposed cruise terminal.

This is a major reason in having actual “bodies” there, showing that the groups are comprised of taxpaying citizens, and should be allowed to contest the permit!

Our attorneys contend on appeal that the ALC judge erred because, in fact, our groups and members have more than enough at stake to entitle us to an administrative hearing on whether the SC DHEC permit was unlawfully issued.

Letting the ALC’s decision stand would severely curtail the ability of neighboring citizens to defend their health and their property from unlawfully authorized pollution.

The argument is open to the public and you are encouraged to attend.  The Courthouse is located in the Calhoun State Office Building at 1220 Senate Street in Columbia.


Carnival Pleads Guilty to Environmental Felonies

Cruise Ship Pollution Case has Consequences for Charleston’s Ecstasy

The Charleston-based Carnival Ecstasy and all other cruise ships sailing under Carnival Corp.‘s eight brands will be under strict environmental monitoring during the next five years – the result of an agreement between the company and federal prosecutors to end a criminal pollution case.

Carnival’s Princess Cruises division agreed this month to plead guilty to seven felony charges and pay a record $40 million fine after it was caught dumping thousands of gallons of oily waste, called bilge water, into the ocean for about eight years. The Port of Charleston was among the ports that prosecutors say Princess Cruises visited when the pollution scheme was taking place, and that pollution likely occurred in U.S. waters.

Princess Cruises’ employees tried to cover up the pollution with false entries in record books used to track the waste, court records show. The cruise line will officially enter its guilty plea at a Dec. 20 hearing in federal court in Miami.

Prosecutors focused on five Princess Cruises ships, but court documents show vessels in Carnival’s other divisions have kept inaccurate waste discharge records in violation of federal law. The other ships aren’t named, but U.S. Attorney‘s offices in 18 districts, including South Carolina, have agreed to forego prosecution in exchange for the guilty plea.

That doesn’t mean the other ships are getting off scot-free.

Under the agreement, all of Carnival’s 99 ships, including the Ecstasy, will have to take part in a court-monitored environmental compliance program while Princess Cruises is on probation for the next five years.

The plan includes third-party auditors to make sure the vessels follow all U.S. pollution control laws. Carnival will have to update its policies and training programs and make sure an environmental officer is on each ship. There will be inspections by the U.S. Coast Guard and annual audits.

And Carnival will have to make sure there is enough money available to properly dispose of waste while ships are in port rather than at sea. Prosecutors said on one of the reasons Princess Cruises dumped its pollution at sea was to save on costs.

The agreement is a good start, according to Southern Environmental Law Center attorney Blan Holman. But he says more needs to be done.

“It only lasts for five years and there is zero transparency to the public to monitor things,” Holman said of the program. “If the cruise lines were serious about stopping illegal pollution, they would put all their records somewhere so the public in Charleston could easily see them.”

Holman is representing several historic preservation and neighborhood groups in Charleston who want to block the State Ports Authority‘s plans to develop a new passenger terminal for the Ecstasy and other cruise ships at Union Pier. The SPA has said the new terminal, which would just north of the current building, would alleviate traffic congestion and provide more modern facilities.

The terminal dispute focuses more on the cruise industry’s impact on the city’s densely populated Historic District, but the Princess Cruises revelations have renewed the environmental concerns.

Holman said current pollution laws are too weak, allowing cruise ships to dump grease and some bathroom waste as close as four mile from the coast.

“All of the pollution happens below deck and is almost impossible to detect,” Holman said. “They got caught this time only because someone on the inside defected and blew the whistle.”

For its part, Princess Cruises called its employees’ actions “inexcusable” and said in a statement that it is “extremely disappointed” in the pollution violations.

“Although we had policies and procedures in place, it became apparent they were not fully effective,” said Princess Cruises, which cooperated with federal authorities in the investigation. “We are very sorry that this happened and have taken additional steps to ensure we meet or exceed all environmental requirements.”

 This is the second time Carnival has been caught violating U.S. pollution laws. In 2002, the cruise line pleaded guilty to several felonies for discharging oily waste into the ocean. Carnival paid an $18 million fine and was placed on probation in that case.

The cruise industry has long been criticized by environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth, which often gives Carnival subsidiaries poor or failing marks on pollution control measures in the nonprofit’s annual industry report cards. The Ecstasy, launched in January 1991 and now one of Carnival’s oldest ships, received a D-minus from the group this year.

Friends of the Earth said in a statement that there is “an ongoing lack of initiative by cruise companies to install technologies that reduce their air and water pollution impact on travel destinations and local peoples.”

The Princess Cruises case was much more blatant, prosecutors say, with what appears to be a concerted effort by the cruise line to skirt pollution laws.

“The pollution in this case was the result of more than just bad actors on one ship,” John Gruden, assistant attorney general with the U.S. Justice Department, said in a statement. “It reflects very poorly on Princess’ culture and management. This is a company that knew better and should have done better. Hopefully the outcome of this case has the potential not just to chart a new course for this company, but for other companies as well.”

Holman said he’s skeptical because the agreement doesn’t spell out specific penalties for violations.

“Voluntary agreements are meaningless,” he said. “Unless there are consequences, nothing happens and cost cutting will lead to illegal dumping.”

Reach David Wren at 843-937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_


Charleston cruise ship terminal hearing delayed — again

The battle over a new cruise ship terminal in downtown Charleston won’t be overshadowed by the presidential election after all.

The state’s Court of Appeals, which was going to hear arguments in the cruise ship case on Election Day, canceled the Nov. 8 hearing “after careful consideration,” Jenny Kitchings, the clerk of court, said in a letter sent to lawyers on Friday. There is no new date for the hearing, which has been delayed numerous times over the past two years due to scheduling conflicts.

With the court’s calendar set for the rest of this year, it likely will be 2017 before the case returns to the docket.

The case pits several Charleston area environmental and historic preservation groups against the State Ports Authority and the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control.

DHEC granted a permit in 2012 that would let the maritime agency place five additional clusters of support pilings beneath an old warehouse at the north end of Union Pier. The SPA wants to spend about $35 million at that site on a new terminal for cruise ships, replacing a nearby 1970s-era building used mostly by Carnival Cruise Lines.

The environmental and preservation groups filed a lawsuit opposing DHEC’s ruling, but a state Administrative Law Court judge ruled the groups did not have a right to sue. An appeal of that ruling was filed in April 2014, and all sides have been waiting since then to present their arguments in court.

The groups, which are represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, say they oppose the new terminal because it would add to congestion and pollution near the city’s Historic District, threatening its unique character. They want the terminal moved farther north.

The SPA says its voluntary limit on the cruise ship business — no vessels with more than 3,500 passengers and no more than 104 ships per year — will address those concerns. The SPA’s current cruise ship terminal is just a few hundred feet south of the proposed facility and the maritime agency says a new facility would improve traffic patterns.

The SPA also needs a federal permit to proceed with the project. The Army Corps of Engineers is reviewing an application for that permit but has not set a timetable for its decision. A previous permit application was tossed out by a federal judge in 2013 because the proposal did not consider the terminal’s impact on the city’s historic district.

 Click to read full article

Reach David Wren at 843-937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_


Join the Caravan to Columbia on November 8!


The SC Court of Appeals has scheduled oral argument in our State case challenging DHEC’s issuance of a permit to the State Port Authority for election day, Tuesday, November 8, at noon.

Yes, that is election day.

The arguments will be in Courtroom 1, SC Court of Appeals, 1220 Senate Street, Columbia.  The building is called the Calhoun State Office Building, and the entrance for the court is on the north side of the building, near the intersection of Senate and Sumter Streets.

This is our chance to PHYSICALLY show our belief in the case….Bodies will matter!!

TO THAT END: C4 has worked with the Coastal Conservation League to organize transportation to/from Columbia if enough people commit to coming.

Please RSVP at this link by November 3.  We currently have space for 14-30 people.

C4 and the Coastal Conservation League are happy to cover the cost of the transportation, but as always any donations would be much appreciated!!

Those who choose to join us in Columbia will be back well prior to 7:00PM to vote!!!!!! There is always the option to vote beforehand as well–we anticipate getting on the road to Columbia at 9 AM.

As you may recall, the main issue on appeal is whether C4 and the other groups have legal “standing” to challenge the permits issued by the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) for SPA’s proposed new, larger cruise terminal on Laurens Street. The sanctions imposed on us by the ALC will also be reviewed at the hearing.

Our attorneys have appealed a S.C. Administrative Law Court decision which held that our groups had no legal right to challenge DHEC’s approvals. The judge reasoned that none of our members would suffer any injury from a 100,000 sq ft., $35 million cruise terminal built to home-base 3500-passenger vessels in downtown Charleston.

Because the ALC threw the case out for lack of standing, we never had the opportunity to present the merits of the case. On appeal, we contend that the terminal’s localized air pollution, increased traffic, and historic neighborhood degradation are more than sufficient to allow our day in court.

As stated above, the public is welcome to attend Court of Appeals hearings.  The Court has advised counsel to arrive early, since cases beforehand may end early.


Letter: Growing pains

Robert Rosen’s Sept. 18 op-ed provided an interesting snapshot of Charleston’s transformation over the past 36 years.

Drawing on his years of service with the city, he offered sound advice for dealing with the rapid growth Charleston is experiencing.

He pointed out that “infrastructure, especially highways, is simply not in place to support this growth.”

There is another relatively new infrastructure component Mr. Rosen does not mention but that Charleston and many coastal cities must factor into future planning and development: the daunting technical challenges and immense cost of adapting to sea-level rise in the decades ahead.

Richard Wildermann

Privateer Creek Road

Johns Island

Click to see article