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Charleston: Niche and Growing

“Within the context of the city of Charleston, we have a nice incremental bump up each year (in vessel calls),” said Peter Lehman, vice president of cruise and real estate for the port. 2015 closed with 94 calls, and 2016 is expected to bring in 99.

“We’re seeing an increase in overnight calls,” he said, “We’re a nice port and we have a nice, solid niche business in a lovely city.”

Charleston’s charm has seen the city grow its cruise profile year over year, now attracting a near-complete profile of lines stopping at the port – ranging from Carnival to Crystal.

While the cruise lines could not be named at press time, Lehman expected to add new customers in 2016 and 2017.

Carnival will swap out the Fantasy early this year, as the Ecstasy comes to homeport in town.

The Carnival Sunshine will also be in Charleston on and off, including a 10-day Carnival Journeys sailing leaving on May 30, with calls at St. Thomas, Antigua, Martinique, St. Kitts and San Juan, plus four sea days.

While Carnival remains the port’s number one customer, there is the potential for another homeported line, as the city recently completed doubling the size of its airport. Two thousand hotel rooms are being added, while Volvo has opened a nearby plant and Boeing is expanding its production in South Carolina.

“If the domino theory takes hold with new ships, maybe we’ll get a shot seasonally,” added Lehman. “Let them come in and test the market and do an assessment after the fact.”

Lehman believes the port is a natural fit for a Bermuda product and continues to search for a customer. However, business is still pretty good looking to the future.

“We’ve never had this many calls, on the books, this far out and we have calls through 2019,” he added.

Among the draws for passengers are plantation tours and Civil War history, plus an expanding cuisine scene in the city itself.

For businesses and residents, the Charleston Neighbor Advisory Council meets quarterly and includes speakers from the port, Conventions and Visitors Bureau and Carnival, addressing the cruise business and providing and open dialogue format.

Reef Damage Adds to Cruise Industry’s Image as Enemy of Environment

The cruise industry has always struggled with its environmental image. The “big three” cruise lines (Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean) were fined tens of millions of dollars collectively in the 1990’s and 2000’s for dumping pollutants into the water and lying to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Cruise lines argue that their days of dumping at sea are over.  But its hard to convince a skeptical public with YouTube broadcasting what is actually happening at sea. Like last year, when MSC crew members sent us several videos showing dumping of plastic bags off the mooring deck of a MSC Cruise Ship Dumpingcruise ship into a marine sanctuary at night.

The public is not as dumb as the cruise industry treats them.  Calling yourself a guardian of the seas is not going to work when you are caught by cruise passengers and your own crew members dumping plastic bags into a marine sanctuary over the side under the cover of night.

The cruise industry should be embarrassed after YouTube videos are now showing the destruction of a coral reef in the Cayman Islands by an anchor and chain dropped by the Pullmantur Zenith cruise ship (an old ship last operated by Celebrity Cruises), owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises.

Coral reefs and cruise lines, it seems, are as incongruous as cats and dogs. Just ask the formerly quaint little port of Falmouth, Jamaica where the port was dredged for Royal Caribbean’s monster ships, the Allure of the Seas and the Oasis of the Seas to squeeze in, This required the destruction of some 35,000,000 cubic feet of coral reef and the annihilation of two square miles of mangroves which are now buried under pulverized reef material.

Last year, a Carnival cruise ship (the Magic) crushed a coral reef in the Caymans after a local pilot boat operated by Bodden Shipping Agency guided the Carnival cruise ship to anchor outside of the designated public port anchorage. You can read about that situation in Carnival Magic Crushes Coral Reef in Cayman Islands.

The Cayman Reporter described the situation as involving an “anchor on the reef rolling over the coral sending plumes of dust and broken coral in its wake.”  But the governing authority is the weak Department of the Environment of the Cayman Islands which did not even bothered to hold anyone responsible for last year’s massive damage to the coral reef by the dropping of the Carnival anchor. The agency has already exonerated the Zenith cruise operator and the harbor pilot from negligence. Royal Caribbean then immediately took advantage of this free pass to defend itself from criticism on Twitter, tweeting: “When Pullmantur Zenith arrived in Grand Cayman it was directed to a government-designated anchorage spot, not in a protected area.”

The fact of the matter is that live coral was directly under the Zenith cruise ship which made no efforts to verify the underwater conditions.

As the Huffington Post points out, the Cayman Islands’ Marine Conservation Laws, seen on the islands’ tourism website, state that “Damaging coral by anchor, chains or any other means ANYWHERE in Cayman waters is prohibited.”  This is clearly a case where the cruise line, the pilot agency and the Cayman’s Department of the Environment should all be held accountable. Strict liability (i.e., no-fault liability) should always apply in matters this important.

The ultimate irony, of course, is that protecting the Cayman’s beautiful reefs may well be a moot point. The country has decided to cater to the cruise industry’s goals of building a large dock, so that cruise ships no longer have to tender passengers ashore, which will sit over the reefs. This will require extensive dredge and fill operations which will destroy large portions of the island’s ancient coral reefs. Such is the result of a short sited, docile, tourism-dependent Caribbean nation trying to please its Miami coral-reef-destroying cruise line masters.

CHS | Vote Tuesday… Charleston’s future is at stake

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of Charleston’s mayoral election.  The City is at a crossroads.   Traffic congestion has worsened; May is now gridlock.   Hundreds of new hotel rooms have just been built, and hundreds more have been permitted or are in the queue, yet no one has studied their impact.  A proposed new cruise terminal looms, one that the head of the State Ports Authority admits would be “like an airport,” yet the current mayor has no interest in moving it from the Historic District or mitigating any of the impacts.  Most importantly, no one but this blog will report on how lifting the embargo against Cuba, once formalized, will increase cruise passenger traffic in and out of Charleston’s harbor.  
 
Major developments including recent (and potentially proposed) Sergeant Jasper, the West Edge, the new Children’s Hospital and others will lock up traffic on Lockwood Boulevard and make the commute to West Ashley almost impossible.  The only proposed solution…bike lanes…   The flooding, the aging infrastructure, the crumbling Battery wall…
What we do not need is another mayor who will continue to look the other way.  We need a mayor who will hit the pause button on growth and development-at-any-cost and pull out one of the many thoughtful plans and begin to work with the community on real solutions.
 
The Charleston Mercury believes “one candidate stands out from the group; he is civic leader and businessman John Tecklenburg. Mr. Tecklenburg crossed the Rubicon of Charleston politics when he decided to oppose the Beach Company’s plans to redevelop the Sergeant Jasper Apartments. He stood up to a longstanding ally and took a path of principle that endeared his candidacy to many Charlestonians. This is not the place to re-launch that tug of war, but it boiled down to a candidate showing clearly that he has ears to hear his constituents.”(1)
 
Endorsing John Tecklenburg, The Post and Courier admits that the next mayor “will have his hands full,” but says “Mr. Tecklenburg recognizes the challenges, and has the ability, experience and temperament to meet them effectively. He is a retired business executive, and he served for eight years as Mayor Joe Riley’s director of economic development. The affable Mr. Tecklenburg will bring a thoughtful approach to a difficult job.”  
 
What will he do?  Tecklenburg “calls for a moratorium on new hotel construction until restrictions can be put into place in consultation with residents, historic preservation groups and neighborhood associations. He would similarly invoke a ‘pause’ in approving special events that increasingly cause traffic, parking problems and noise in city neighborhoods,” editorialized the P&C, and quoted Tecklenburg saying that “we need to redirect our focus on the things that affect our livability.”  “Those things,” writes the P&C, “include housing affordability, traffic management and improved transportation. He would encourage city incentives for affordable housing, and would urge the Charleston Housing Authority to provide additional units for low-income people through better utilization of the agency’s land holdings.”(2)  And Tecklenburg would do a much-needed performance audit on all city departments to ensure we’re getting our money’s worth (long overdue, by the way).  
 
John Tecklenburg promises to work with other jurisdictions to create regional solutions for planning, transportation, and mass transit.
 
Only one candidate has run a positive campaign, and only one candidate has offered a comprehensive plan for making Charleston livable in the future, Charleston native John Tecklenburg.  We join The Mercury, The Post and Courier, Charleston Currents (3), Ginny Deerin, Henry Fishburne, Sen. Robert Ford and many others endorsing JOHN TECKLENBURG for Mayor.  Please be sure to VOTE.
Jay
#  #   #
 
 
1) Charleston Mercury endorsement:
 
2) Post and Courier’s endorsement:
 
3) Charleston Currents endorsement:

C4 Army Corps Letter

C4 Letter Submitted to Army Corps Letter

C4ArmyCorpsLet 11 04 15

National Trust GIS Images

National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) collection of GIS images predicting future cruise terminal impacts on Charleston.

NTHP GIS Images

Visual Impact Analysis: Cruise ships in downtown Charleston

Check out this slideshow by The National Trust depicting the visual impacts larger cruise ships will have on our skyline.

Corps, Court take up contentious SC cruise terminal

Corps, Court take up contentious SC cruise terminal

By BRUCE SMITH
Associated Press
http://www.abcnews4.com/story/30125614/corps-court-take-up-contentious-sc-cruise-terminal

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is sorting through hundreds of comments and the South Carolina Court of Appeals has set arguments for later this year in the ongoing dispute over a proposed $35 million passenger cruise terminal in Charleston.

The South Carolina Ports Authority envisions the terminal in a renovated waterfront warehouse and wants a federal permit to place five additional clusters of pilings beneath the structure where there are now more than 1,000.

Opponents went to court challenging an initial permit issued in 2012 and a federal judge threw it out, saying regulators had not considered the larger impact of the terminal on historic Charleston.

Preservation, conservation and community groups opposed to the new terminal, first proposed five years ago, worry it will cause more congestion and pollution and hurt property values in the city.

The Ports Authority has now applied for a new permit and the Corps received about 250 comments before the public comment period closed last week. Corps spokesman Sean McBride said the comments will be considered before deciding whether a full environmental impact statement, which can take a year, should be compiled.

The Ports Authority provided 40,000 pages of documents to the Corps.

“If these 40,000 pages show anything, it is that a project of this magnitude, and at this location, will have a significant impact on the human environment,” said a comment filed with the Corps by attorneys for the Southern Environmental Law Center which represents two groups opposing the terminal.

The attorneys suggested alternatives be considered, including renovating the existing terminal or building the new terminal in North Charleston, upriver from the planned site. They also said that shore power – electric power to the ship so the cruise liners aren’t idling in port using fuel oil – is feasible and there should be an updated study on the impact cruises will have on traffic in the historic district.

An authority spokeswoman said the agency had no comment on the filing.

McBride said that until all the comments are reviewed, it’s too early to say if, or when, an environmental impact statement might be compiled.

Meanwhile, a challenge to a state permit is set to be heard by the Court of Appeals later this year. The court notified attorneys this month it plans to hear oral arguments the second week in December.

A state administrative law judge upheld the state permit for the pilings last year, saying the opponents lacked standing to appeal.

The judge found that opponents failed to present “specific, admissible facts to support their allegations and statements” of harm to Charleston posed by the planned terminal. His decision was then appealed by terminal opponents.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.