Jay’s Blog

IT’S ALL SO UNNECESSARY- “…an edited version of my comments submitted to the SC Office of Ocean and Coastal Management. These are the facts and opinions that everyone who cares about Charleston should know.” Jay Williams

IT’S ALL SO UNNECESSARY

          Two SC state hearings were recently conducted
about the proposed new SPA Cruise Terminal at Union Pier.  Yet many otherwise
well-informed Charlestonians don’t realize the grave consequences that will
follow.  Below is an edited version of my comments submitted to the SC Office of
Ocean and Coastal Management.  These are the facts and opinions that everyone
who cares about Charleston should know.

It will be worth the three minutes it may take
you to read this.  You will learn that his grave threat is not only unnecessary,
it’s manufactured.  The terrible consequences, though, will be real.
–Jay

 

THE IMMINENT DANGER:


The proposed 100,000 sq. ft. cruise terminal for Union Pier–the only site
that was ever considered by the SC State Ports Authority (SPA)–would, if permitted,
deal a devastating environmental, visual, economic, cultural, and historic blow to the
City of Charleston.  The blow, as cruise ships grow ever-larger under
post-Panamex (after a new, wider Panama Canal) conditions, all of which could be
accommodated by the excessively long existing 1800′ pier at Union Pier, would be
fatal to Charleston’s historic charm and it’s continued ability to draw almost 5
million visitors a year to see its historic, homes, gardens and buildings.  Do
we need more examples of the damage cruise ships do to cities beyond Venice,
Italy; Key West, Florida; Hamilton, Bermuda; and Dubrovnik, Croatia?(1)
If ever a certain disaster could be avoided, this would be it–yet because of the vast
financial resources of the SPA, a public-private entity only loosely controlled
by the SC State Legislature, residents, national and local historic and
environmental organizations, and common sense have all been pushed aside.

 

FOUR FACTS YOU MAY NOT KNOW:


First – The SPA never conducted a cruise terminal location study.  The SPA
was also never honest with the citizens of Charleston about discussing the location of the
cruise terminal or potential alternate locations.(2)  Contrary to the mandate that
the SPA operates under to be financially and environmentally responsible, the
SPA never conducted a study to find the best possible site for a cruise terminal
in Charleston.  The SPA has repeatedly been asked for such as study and has not
produced one, the SPA has repeatedly refused to comply with requests for
information under the Freedom of Information Act, and the SPA has repeatedly
mischaracterized its meeting and “citizen input” process as being more than it
was, and has even stooped to planting pro-terminal letters to the editor in the
newspaper.  At one such “input session” conducted by the SPA at the existing
terminal, I repeatedly tried to bring up questions about other locations, why
was the Union Pier location chosen, why if this was supposed to be a “one berth”
cruise terminal, was the pier to be left at 1800 feet.  All those questions were
rejected, and two different moderators (we had broken up into 6 or 7 smaller
groups) told me that these input sessions were only to discuss the “design of
the terminal building,” not the location of the building–that, obviously, was a
forgone conclusion.(3)  I have written a blog on why the cruise terminal
should be moved (4) and an op-ed in the Post and Courier about that adds to
those reasons and suggests alternative sites(5).

Second –
Thrusting a cruise terminal into downtown Charleston is not only unnecessary,
the evidence from other port cities demonstrates the immense damage such a
terminal would inflict on the peninsula.  The damage to other cities that have
cruise terminals downtown or near historic areas has been devastating as
continued congestion, confusion, traffic, noise, air and water pollution and
other environmental, culture and historic degradation have increased over time,
often completely altering the original culture and atmosphere of those historic
cities, reducing their quality of life.   I need not tell you that the World
Monuments’ Fund, Charleston’s Preservation Society, the Historic Charleston
Foundation, The Charlestowne and Ansonborough Neighborhood Assns., the Coastal
Conservation League, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, among
others, either opposes the cruise terminal location at Union Pier or favors
strictly regulating cruise ships.  Why do these organizations oppose a giant
cruise terminal downtown–or one without regulations?(6)   Because we cannot build
300-year-old cities any longer; we cannot recreate 300-year-old buildings,
houses, churches, gardens and our Colonial-era skyline if it is damaged or
compromised.  Once the historic charm of Hamilton, Bermuda was destroyed, what
can bring it back?  What can return Key West to its former “edge of the earth,”
relaxed history?  We cannot isolate or protect Charleston’s historic
neighborhoods from a cruise terminal–with the potential for ever-expanding
capacity–wedged in next door.

Third –
The option of “regulating” cruise ships is a phony option.  No such option
exists.  Yet some well-meaning organizations propose regulating cruise ships.
Even the SPA, in an effort to quiet opposition, proposed to limit cruise ships
to under 3,500 passengers (yet that would likely include 1500 crew, or 5000
people–hardly a small impact), no more than two visits per week (yet as most
ships do not visit during the height of winter or summer, that would mean far
more ships per week in peak season), and no more than 104 ships per year.  But
the SPA refuses to legally commit to even these high limits–in fact, James
Newsome, the CEO of the SPA, defiantly wrote in an email to this writer (and
many others) that he would not permit his port operations to be limited by
anyone.  No one seems to be paying attention to the bullying and intransigent
stand of the SPA.(3, 7)  But it gets worse.  Charleston’s Mayor Riley has
refused to restrict cruise ship activity, alternately saying that the SPA is
“our friend” and doesn’t need restrictions or limitations before saying that he
doesn’t have the power to limit cruise ship activity.(8)  Lawsuits have been filed to
restrict the size, height and noise of cruise ships, but the results/decisions
from those lawsuits are still unknown.  The reality is that the cruise ship
industry is run by a cabal of foreign owned entities; together they have a
combined annual revenue of over $30 billion.  Carnival alone has an annual
revenue of over $15 billion–no city, no city council, no one can stand in the
way of that kind of financial clout.  Charleston will decline and fall as other
small historic cities have in the wake of cruise ship tourism.

Fourth –
Cruise ship tourism will destroy the golden goose of historic tourism that is
the economic driver for all of South Carolina.  More important than the revenues
from the Port of Charleston is the spending from the five million annual
visitors who come to Charleston and eat, shop, visit museums and attractions,
and stay.  The SPA put out a survey, done by two College of Charleston
professors, that projected revenues from the cruise terminal at $37 million
annually–a fictional number that since has been totally discredited by a real
study–an analysis of actual cruise operations and visitors–by Miley and
Associates and paid for by the Historic Charleston Foundation.
What did that study conclude?(9)
That cruise tourists spend an average of only $66 per day–vs. $718 per day for
traditional Charleston tourists.  Why the difference?  Because tourists to
Charleston’s home-ported ship, the Carnival “Fantasy,” are budget travelers who
are coming not to visit Charleston–but to get on their ship, have fun on board
and sail the Caribbean.  The “Fantasy” is called a “fun ship,” not the history
ship, and the goal of Carnival, as with every cruise line, is to capture as much
revenue from each passenger by charging extras for excursions, for spa
treatments, for upscale restaurants, for restricted pools, for drinks, for
special shows, in the casinos and a host of other amenities and attractions as
they can.  That captured revenue is spent with Carnival or other cruise lines,
not in Charleston.  One researcher I spoke with called cruise ships “the strip
mine of tourism.”  In addition, the study found that these travelers were
staying in the cheaper N. Charleston hotels, not in Charleston, as their goal
was to get to their pre-paid cruise as soon as possible, and the N. Charleston
budget hotels also provided free weekly parking and a shuttle to the cruise
ship.  Another key thing the original SPA study totally ignored–the costs of
cruise ship tourism:  the need for extra police, the need to block off streets,
the inconvenience to businesses and residents, the cost of litter and trash
clean-up, etc.  One thing is clear, the cost of cruise ship tourism for the City
of Charleston–if the terminal remains at Union Pier–will be far greater than
the benefits.(10)
The Miley study concluded that another premise of the SPA study, that cruise
ships would be provisioned locally helping local farmers, etc., was also false.
The ships are provisioned out of Carnival’s huge headquarters in Florida.
Worse again is that the new Miley and Associates study showed that cruise ship
tourists can have a deleterious impact on traditional and upscale tourists (and
potential homeowners alike)–driving them to other cities and towns where they
don’t have to put up with cruise tourists.(11, 12)

 

THE SPA’S ARGUMENTS ARE WITHOUT MERIT:


The objections of the SPA, the Longshoremen’s Union, and the Mayor about
relocating the proposed terminal to another location are nonsensical.  The first such
mantra, complete with signs and buttons that said “Jobs not Snobs” that were
featured at the Physician’s Hall meeting in May, 2011, came from the
Longshoremen and SPA sympathizers.  Please.  If the terminal were located at the
Columbus Street Terminal (CST) or at the Navy Yard, those same jobs would still
exist, just in a slightly different location.(13)  Not only would no jobs be
lost, but as residents would have less reason to demand restrictions on ships
farther away from the sensitive historic district, it is logical to say that
jobs would likely increase if the terminal were moved.   Another argument,
“Charleston has been a port city for 300 years, so…” is equally ridiculous.
Charleston will still be a port city if the terminal were moved north or across
to Patriot’s Point.  But the ships that we have coming into Charleston today
ain’t British ships-of-the-line or pilot sailing boats like “the Spirit of South
Carolina,” they are huge cruise and cargo ships that can barely make it under
the 176′ high Ravenel Bridge–they do not belong in historic downtown, and there
are better, roomier and safer places for them farther north, beginning at
CST.(14)  Then most recently, the new head of Maritime Association admitted,
perhaps unwittingly, that a cruise terminal also serves as a border crossing,
limited by federal restrictions and regulations, and likely the entrance point for guns,
weapons, and other contraband.(15).  Perhaps she didn’t realize it as she wrote it, but
she was giving us yet another potent argument for moving this terminal away from
the densely populated areas of Charleston.  There are other obvious
arguments–including requiring shore side power in the wake of toxic ship soot
and pollution in port, yet the SPA summarily rejected this idea, too.  Shore
side power must be a requirement for a Charleston cruise terminal no matter
where it’s located.  Nor will I reference the unsightly view that a towering
cruise ship imposes over the skyline of an historic city like Charleston–
destroying the ambiance and historic context for both residents and
tourists who might otherwise have enjoyed Charleston in much the way it was
years ago.  Cruise terminals are often located far from cities or in industrial
areas of cities where their presence does not detract from the quality of life
in that city, where they can be adequately provisioned and fueled without
disturbing residents and businesses, and where the safety and security of all
can be ensured.  The historic cities of Boston and Philadelphia, that have
located their terminals well away from their historic downtowns, have proven
that this arrangement benefits all concerned.  The arguments the SPA, the mayor
and the longshoremen have against moving the terminal farther from the city are
unconvincing.(16)

 

THE SOLUTION AND CONCLUSION–the essence of my concluding comments to
SC Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management:

You know that the SPA did not address the concerns of the board even after its second
presentation.  You know that the cruise terminal, if permitted at Union Pier,
will create an airport-like environment that will grow and grow, impinging on
the city and destroying its charm and character as all attempts to regulate it
and the SPA continue to fail.  You know that jobs and cruise ship revenues would
be just as great if the terminal were moved away from downtown, in spite of
specious objections from the proponents.  You know that Charleston is a truly
unique city, home to the single longest unbroken row of Colonial-era houses in
America, many historic churches and buildings, and an irreplaceable charm of its
homes and gardens.  You know that the modern cruise industry is growing at 6% or
more annually–even in these near-recessionary times–and that this is an
industry that is relatively new, created in the mid-l970’s, and that the damage
that this industry has done to historic cities elsewhere has been horrific,
permanent and is continuing.  You know that if the terminal were only moved as
far north as the Columbus Street Terminal that with its 155 acres, with the
ability to create easy access off Morrison Drive at the north end of that
terminal, all traffic could be diverted from East Bay Street and would not
impact either Ansonborough or the East Side; you know that this would be a far
superior location for all concerned than Union Pier.  In spite of the
protestations to the contrary, both BMW (which was moved there by the SPA simply
to prevent the cruise terminal from being co-located there) and the cruise
terminal could co-exist on that property as the cruise terminal and the parking
it proposes would only require 20-25 acres.  You know that these cruise ships
will cause environmental damage–you saw the pictures of the Carnival-owned
“Costa Concordia” on its side in Italy, so you know it can and will happen.
It’s just a question of where.  You know that this terminal is a border, with
all its attendant problems.  You know that if permitted at the Union Pier
location, it will continue to cause traffic and other congestion, cost and
damage for Charleston residents.  You know that the tourists who want to go on a
cruise vacation aren’t interested in coming to Charleston–at least on that
particular trip–and that they otherwise could come anytime they wanted, if they
so wanted.  You know moving this terminal and standing up to the SPA is the
right thing to do.(17)

I just hope you do the right thing.

Respectfully submitted,

Jay Williams, Jr.

10 Oct 12

Footnotes:
1)  The Menace of Venice, Campaigners picket cruise ship…  – Daily Mail
2)  Groundhog Day – Jay Williams blog
3)  The SPA’s “Defiant”  – Jay Williams blog
4)  7 Reasons Why the SPA’s proposed cruise terminal must be moved – Jay Williams blog
5)  Let facts steer local cruise terminal debate…  –  Post and Courier, Jay Williams
6)  What Makes Charleston Charleston – Charleston Currents – Jay Williams
7)  Calling on Carnival – Jay Williams blog
8)  The Mayor’s Fiction – Jay Williams blog
9)  A Tale of Two Studies –  Jay Williams blog
10)  Waves of Criticism   –  Jay Williams blog
11)  A response to Cruise Critics miss the boat – Jay Williams Blog
12)  Ain’t no Sunshine – Jay Williams blog
13)  Mythmaking – Jay Williams blog
14)  The Future Isn’t what it used to be – Charleston Mercury – Jay Williams
15)  Let facts steer local cruise terminal debate….  Post and Courier – Jay Williams
16)  A Broken Vision – Jay Williams blog
17)  Reasonable cruise regulations should be more than a dream – Post and Courier – Jay Williams

“Let facts steer local cruise debate toward a more logicial outcome” by Jay Williams-

Growing opposition to the proposed downtown cruise terminal is propelling proponents to choke off debate before others learn the facts.

The president of the Maritime Association of South Carolina, writing in an article, “Just git ’er built,” provides another reason why we shouldn’t. Pam Zaresk boasts that “the proposed cruise terminal is not just a building — it’s an international passenger processing facility. It is the border of our country and as such is subject to numerous federal rules and regulations.”

She’s right. So why would we put that border, plagued by security issues like drug running, nano viruses, weapons and more, at our front door?

Yet, astonishingly, Ms. Zaresk asserts that downtown is the only location for a cruise terminal.

There are better choices. The Columbus Street Terminal, twice as large as Union Pier with room for both a terminal and BMW operations, is more isolated, 10 times farther from homes and offers direct access to primary roads that would take all traffic off East Bay. Patriot’s Point, Laurel Island and North Charleston also have promise. And the decommissioned Navy Base, with no resident population on land that would otherwise be difficult to develop, is ideal for a terminal with state-of-the-art security.

Then she proceeds to advance new regulations that will soon “require much cleaner, lower sulfur fuel in all ships.” Before you take that deep breath, she forgot to tell you that those regulations are being phased in through 2015, or later, as the powerful cruise industry has mounted a major counteroffensive against their implementation. Moreover, the “cleaner” fuel required after 2015 will be nearly 70 times dirtier than the fuel trucks use on U.S. highways today!

Minimizing the evils of ship exhaust and blithely ignoring the concerns of the Charleston and S.C. Medical Societies, she may not realize that diesel exhaust was linked to cancer and other serious illnesses in a recent 12,000-person study.

We know the facts; we can see the soot. How can knowledgeable terminal proponents claim it is no problem? Why do they write letters justifying air pollution based on the wind direction? Why do the State Ports Authority, the mayor and Carnival reject the only healthy solution for idling cruise ships belching toxic exhaust in port:  shore side power?

Fortunately, before a new terminal can be built, state regulators will carefully consider all the evidence. That evidence includes the impacts of traffic and passenger congestion, the harm to air quality and the environment, and potential damage to Charleston’s neighborhoods. It’s reassuring that more thoughtful people are studying this ill-sited proposed terminal rather than mindlessly bleating, “Git ’er built.”

No one opposes a cruise terminal and jobs somewhere, but jamming a cruise terminal like a sword into the side of the peninsula is senseless. This terminal will cause problems similar to those of a major airport. Why cram it into downtown, creating turmoil in the heart of the city, when cruisers just want an easy way to get on their ship to sail into to the Caribbean?

Why do proponents repeat discredited claims for cruise terminal benefits long after the Miley and Associates study, funded by the Historic Charleston Foundation, proved that cruise passengers spend only $66 a day compared to $718 a day for traditional tourists?

Why aren’t we told that the city loses money managing cruise tourists, that the city won’t make a dime from terminal revenues, or that cruise ship tourism has irreversibly damaged Venice, Italy, and Key West, Fla.?

How can these proponents risk Charleston’s future on a downtown cruise terminal that will produce less than one-half of one percent of the Port’s annual revenues?

Union Pier is simply the most valuable undeveloped waterfront property on the East Coast, with incredible views of the harbor and Mount Pleasant. It presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to expand Charleston’s small-scale streetscape with stores, offices, hotels, coffee shops, restaurants, residences, public spaces and waterfront parks. This development would produce hundreds of permanent jobs, generate millions annually in tax revenues, and ensure the future of Charleston.

Instead, cruise terminal proponents want to open a gash in the side of the peninsula, expose us to increasing border security problems, permanently blight the area with nine acres of surface parking, an ugly warehouse terminal building, and noisy, idling cruise ships, buses and provisioning trucks — squandering priceless downtown waterfront that will be sealed off from the rest of us forever. That’s not a vision, that’s a 100-year mistake.

Jay Williams Jr., a radio broadcasting consultant, is a member of the Charlestowne Neighborhood Association and the Charleston Communities for Cruise Control (C4), which hosts his blogs at CharlestonCruiseControl.org.

(Also published in P&C.)

“The Future isn’t what it used to be”- expanded version by Jay Williams

“The Future isn’t what it used to be”- expanded version
People around town ask me questions similar to this–“I read a lot about the cruise ship terminal controversy, but what is the right answer?” Or, “I’m not against cruise ships, but should they be right downtown?”
Make no mistake, getting on the right side of this issue is critical to Charleston’s future. These two articles from the latest Charleston Mercury may help you decide things for yourself. Grab your copy of the paper if you have it, buy it on the newsstand, or keep reading here.
The first article is a guest editorial written by me. The second is the newspaper’s own lead editorial. I urge you to read both…
–Jay Williams, Jr.
 

The future isn’t what it used to be

Guest Editorial
By Jay Williams, Jr.
Published: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 3:28 PM EDT
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.

(please continue reading here): http://charlestonmercury.com/articles/2012/05/16/opinion/editorials/doc4fb3f4bc3d1d9735621349.txt

Cruise ships and putting lipstick on pigs

Published (online):
Wednesday, May 16, 2012 3:28 PM EDT
The cruise ship debate continues with vigor, and we welcome the opportunity to connect some dots and stress the importance of the site of the new terminal. However, we scratch our heads when we read about “cruise ship opponents” in various local media. Those concerned about the cruise ships come at the issue from many different and valid perspectives. They are not “opponents”; rather, they are “critics” and are not monolithic. Many want cruise ships, but under varying circumstances. This is not an “either/or” issue for most citizens.
(please continue reading this editorial here): http://charlestonmercury.com/articles/2012/05/16/opinion/editorials/doc4fb3f58750c6d609423721.txt

A response to “Cruise Critics Miss Boat”: “Regulate cruise tourism in Charleston” by Jay Williams in P&C-

Regulate cruise tourism in Charleston, P&C, May 21, 2012, Commentary, JAY WILLIAMS. 

It’s not about the past.
Those favoring unregulated cruise ship tourism for Charleston want to discuss everything but facts.

A recent article from two writers affiliated with the S.C. Waterfront Alliance resorted to a standard theme — they attacked their opponents. They charged the Historic Charleston Foundation with using “beyond bizarre accusations about Charleston’s maritime industry” and belittled residents of Ansonborough, calling their concerns about cruise ship noise and questions about height regulations on the 14-deck ships “laughable.” That was before these advocates advanced their own laughable assertion, “The cruise industry is an environmentally friendly, clean, and well-regulated industry.” Tell that to the survivors of the sunken Carnival-owned “Costa Concordia” or residents of Charleston breathing toxic bunker fuel from cruise ships — fuel so dirty it’s banned on land.

The proponents also reprised their straw man sham that some “organizations” desire to “regulate shipping.” Codswallop. Nobody wants to “regulate shipping.” Cargo ships don’t disgorge thousands of passengers onto downtown streets; cruise ships do. If other tourism is regulated, why not cruise tourism?

 

But the facts are not favorable to cruise boosters, so they emote about history, “neighborhoods built by ship captains” and “the founding of the Charlestown colony.” But the present and future are what matter.

The modern cruise industry began just 40 years ago when Carnival Cruise Lines began. Since then, Carnival has grown to 100 ships with a 2009 profit of $1.8 billion. Global cruise industry growth has doubled in the past decade — from 9.7 to 18.8 million passengers annually through 2010. Carnival’s revenues increased another 8 percent in 2011 and may grow 6 percent more this year.

The “Fantasy,” the ship home-ported in Charleston, carries 2,056 passengers, but it’s the oldest ship in Carnival’s fleet. Newer ships are bigger. The “Dream” — heralding Carnival’s newest class of vessels — is 1,004 feet long, carries 3,646 passengers and 1,367 crew. They are virtual cities — with bars, “shopping streets,” spas, casinos, upscale restaurants, kids’ activities, “meet and greet” clubs. If everything is on board, why spend money on land?

So they don’t. The recent Miley & Associates study shattered the illusion that home-ported cruise ships bring millions into the local economy. “Fantasy” passengers spend only $66 vs. $718 a day for traditional tourists. Charleston doesn’t make a dime from taxes or passenger fees; local farms don’t make money either — the ships are provisioned from Carnival’s big hub in Florida. And most passengers don’t stay in Charleston but in North Charleston budget hotels that provide free weekly parking and shuttles to the ship. One urban expert calls cruises the “strip mine of tourism.”

Cruise tourism isn’t the only tourism that’s exploding in Charleston. After this year, Bridge Run organizers were forced to cap next year’s participants at 40,000. And Fort Sumter tour boats that normally ferry 200,000 passengers a year carried a record 328,000 tourists last year; passengers are up another 11 percent this year. Almost 4 million visitors will come to Charleston in 2012.

So where are all these tourists going? The horses aren’t taking those carriages to the Citadel Mall. Evan Thompson, executive director of the Preservation Society, cautions that historic Charleston “is not unlike a rare pristine rainforest; only so many people can trample through without damaging it.”

Yet the proponents of unregulated cruise ship tourism, the State Ports Authority and the mayor, dismiss the facts. They remain defiant to every suggestion to mitigate cruise ship impacts on our economy’s “golden goose,” the Historic District and downtown.

Cruise boosters have rejected any legal limits on the size and number of cruise ships. They’ve blocked shoreside power, refused to consider alternative cruise terminal locations, and ignored the costs of cruise ship tourism — even after witnessing the terrible damage to Venice, Italy; Key West, Fla.; Dubrovnik, Croatia and other cities.

What will happen to the economic engine of the region, the Historic District, when residents and traditional tourists tire of the traffic, congestion, and the “Disney-effect” of cruise ship tourism? What if they begin to feel a decline in their “Charleston experience”?

If we can’t do it today, how can Charleston rein in a growing $30 billion-a-year cruise industry once we’ve handed it a $35 million berth in the heart of downtown?

If you care about Charleston’s economic or historic future, the proposed SPA-Union Pier terminal must never be built. But if you’re interested in history, reread the tale of the Trojan Horse.

Jay Williams Jr.., a radio broadcasting consultant, is a member of the Charlestowne Neighborhood Association and the Charleston Communities for Cruise Control (C4), which hosts his blogs at CharlestonCruiseControl.org.

 

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.”

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

 

7 Reasons why the SPA’s proposed cruise terminal must be moved-

Quote: “The problem with cruises is that they can be the strip mine of tourism.”(1) –Jonathan B. Tourtellot, a National Geographic fellow and founding director of the Center for Sustainable Destinations.

Charleston will soon make a decision that will impact its future for the next 100 years. This decision will propel Charleston into one of the great cities of the world, or, very likely, mark the beginning of its slow decline. Most do not understand the dangers, and that’s understandable. The forces for the status quo are in powerful positions and have unlimited financial resources. Those opposed, non-profits, associations, and individuals have neither. But those who want to protect and wisely develop Charleston have the issues on our side. Take a moment to read some of them–the 7 Reasons why the SPA’s proposed cruise terminal must not be built at Union Pier.

1) Congestion, confusion, pollution. The noise, soot, and air pollution from toxic bunker fuel are all documented health risks; cruise ships spew four times the emissions of cargo ships.(2,3) Then there’s the vehicle and passenger congestion and diminished property values near the terminal. This is just a sampling of “deposits” to Charleston from the “Fantasy,” Carnival’s home-ported cruise ship, and port-of-call ships. But the State Ports Authority (SPA) can’t be bothered by serious health risks and has no intention of installing plug-in shore power to mitigate pollution; Carnival also remains unresponsive.(4, 4a) As cruise ships continue to increase in size,(5) these problems will get worse before they get better (if they ever do). Venice, sadly, has become cruise ship tourism tragedy.(1,6,7)

2) Asymmetrical impacts adverse to Charleston. Traffic and passenger congestion, street closures, using expensive police time…these detriments fall on Charleston residents and taxpayers as cruise ship passengers tumble onto the streets, ignore lights and cars, to buy their T-shirts and ice cream cones before being herded onto the “Fantasy,” where they spend their real money with Carnival.(8) The recent Miley Study shattered the illusion that home-port passengers spend a lot and bring millions into the local economy: “Fantasy” cruise passengers only spend $66 a day vs. $718 a day for traditional tourists.(9) That’s because each ship is a vertical monopoly–passengers pre-pay for room and board only to be enticed by extra-cost on-board amenities (drinks, gambling, spas, theme restaurants, excursions, etc.); budget passengers are left with too little money and no incentive to spend it here.(10) There’s more bad news: Charleston doesn’t get passenger tax revenue from Carnival or property tax revenue from the SPA! So with Charleston suffering the adverse impacts, who gets the dough? The SPA grabs the money from passenger and parking fees, and the $79-a-night hotels in N. Charleston bag most of the overnight stays (where passengers often get free weekly parking and a free shuttle to the terminal).

3) Where’s that SPA study of alternative cruise terminal sites? It’s a myth that most people cruising on Carnival “Fantasy” from Charleston want to visit Charleston. Most embarking passengers could do that anytime, and some have, as most live in surrounding states. Yet they’re forced to drive their cars downtown where they’re unleashed into a small, historic downtown area even as their goal is to sail away, have a few drinks, hit the casiinos and the Caribbean. Surely a cruise terminal location at the Columbus Street Terminal, Patriot’s Point, or in North Charleston would provide better access to highways, provide less expensive parking and more room for cruisers to load and unload, along with more room for busses, tour excursion vendors, provisioning trucks, etc. Before proceeding on an ill-conceived Union Pier cruise terminal site, the SPA must be forced to study and weigh air quality, noise pollution, water quality, and coastline impacts, as well as traffic and transportation requirements, construction impacts, in addition to the long-term effects of this proposed project on historic buildings, homes and gardens downtown, and Charleston’s quality-of-life. So where is that study?

Jonathan Tourtellot, quoted above, warns “Cruise ships can flood a city with people who are not necessarily interested in the place, and it becomes a turn-off to other tourists and locals. The most egregious case in the U.S. is Key West, but it’s a pattern we’ve seen repeated in Dubrovnik and Venice.”(1) The National Trust for Historic Preservation put Charleston on “Watch status”; the World Monuments Fund, the Preservation Society, and the Historic Charleston Foundation, to name a few, have issued similar warnings about unbridled cruise ship tourism–especially from a downtown terminal. But the SPA and the mayor have ignored all the warnings.

4) Why no cruise ship regulations? The Charleston tourist industry is heavily regulated, including the number, size, and impacts from taxis, pedicabs and carriages. Yet, somehow, Mayor Joseph Riley claims he has no power to regulate cruise ship tourism, adding, “Nor do I believe there is a need to.”(1). But then Riley promoted the passage of a toothless cruise ship ordinance through the City Council. The mayor, apparently, wants it both ways. And while the SPA says it will “voluntarily” limit cruise ships visits to 104 per year, two per week, and limit ships to 3500 passengers, it refuses to put any of that “voluntary pledge” in writing.(3) The SPA wants it both ways, too. The result: there are no cruise ship regulations, and there’s zero protection for Charleston. The mere fact that the dock at Union Pier is 1800′ long–enough to dock two 855′ “Fantasy”-sized ships simultaneously–would be a red flag to residents, but most weren’t shown the detailed plans for the terminal. That, plus the fact that modern cruise ships are getting bigger and bigger should provide a scary view into the future.(5) So…

5) Regulation alone isn’t enough. We’ve seen how easily regulations can be manipulated. The City Council should have passed a proposed regulation drafted by the Historic Charleston Foundation, but the mayor and council punted.(3) But even if regulations were passed, it’s hard envision the vast negotiating power of the fast-growing $30 billion-a-year, foreign-owned cruise industry. Carnival controls almost half of the cruise industry, and the power that an entity with that much money has cannot be overestimated; we need only to look at Congress to see the perverse influence money has on laws and regulations. Then there’s the horrific evidence of the irreversible damage that cruise ship terminals do to any city when they are located downtown. Irreversible damage is irreversible. That’s why the proposed cruise terminal must be located away from downtown as they are in Boston and other historic cities.

6) Charleston Tourism is exploding, even without cruise ships. The Charleston peninsula cannot grow; it is a fixed, fragile area; we can’t fill in more of the Ashley River. And they aren’t making 250-year-old houses anymore. It’s Historic Charleston that draws the traditional tourists. The glowing tourism magazine articles are a double-edged sword; tourists may think Charleston is like Disney World, but Disney World carefully regulates the number of guests it handles so all can have a good time. Charleston’s mayor won’t try. Yet reality is hitting home. After this year’s Bridge Run debacle, organizers were forced to cap participants at 40,000 for 2013.(11) But did you know that the Ft. Sumpter tour boats that normally carry 200,000 passengers a year took a record 328,000 tourists to Ft. Sumpter in 2011? And in the first quarter of this year, Ft. Sumpter tourism number is up another 11% over last year’s record!(12) The Preservation Society’s Executive Director, Evan R. Thompson, cautions that Charleston is “not unlike a rare pristine rainforest; only so many people can trample through without damaging it.” He added, “The fundamental issue is that we must sustain an environment in which people are willing to make enormous private investment in historic homes. That’s what tourists come to see,”(1) As the Charleston News Alternative’s Bryan Harrison once quipped, “When tourists come here and take a carriage ride, the horses don’t take them to the Citadel Mall.”(13) When will key officials realize what the Bridge Run organizers found out: The City simply can’t accommodate everyone? Charleston’s famed balance among business, tourism and residential quality-of-life is careening out-of-kilter.

7) Charleston must create a world-class development at Union Pier. Union Pier represents the most valuable waterfront property on the East Coast.(5) Mayor Riley extolled the virtues of a partial private development of Union Pier, “It will extend the street grid system into that area, with sidewalks and parks, and in time with new homes, offices, and shops.”(1) And that makes the very thought that the other half of Union Pier is to be wasted on a warehouse-like cruise ship terminal and nine acres of stagnant parking reprehensible, unconscionable, and financially irresponsible. Imagine the property and sales tax revenues, the construction jobs, and then the permanent jobs that would be created by the private, planned development of all of Union Pier! Now there’s an even bigger vision afoot(5)–first expressed by Thomas Bennett, West Fraser and, most recently, Evan Thompson: “Build a new, world-class performance and exhibition hall at Union Pier. A facility that costs over $100 million can and should be a highly visible and proud architectural achievement. A waterfront location would be spectacular. Rather than gut an outdated 1960s building lurking behind an Alexander Street parking garage, a new, four-sided structure can set the tone for the future of Union Pier and cement Charleston’s status as a 21st century cultural leader.”(14) We all know what the famed Sydney Opera House did for that city, lighting up the interest and imagination of millions around the world. Union Pier is a 65-acre waterfront parcel adjacent to downtown–there is no giant opportunity like this in any city anywhere else. Given the exploding growth of the Charleston area (17,000 new residents in just over one year)(15), the onslaught of tourism (even without cruise ships), and the need for more jobs and economic stability, how can we allow an arrogant, intransigent SPA and a reluctant, retiring mayor to squander the future of Charleston on a low-purpose ugly-warehouse-like cruise terminal with wasted acres of hideous asphalt parking lots when it can go somewhere else? We simply can’t. Carpe diem.

–Jay

 

# # #
a) Public Hearing – Charleston Cruise Ship Terminal – Wed., April 18th at 6 p.m.
 
1) “Community: All Aboard” – Charleston magazine
2) “Is it worth spending $4M to save Brooklyn residents $9M per year in health costs?” A View from the Hook
3) “Why not Shore Side Power” – Post and Courier
4) “A plug for shoreside power for cruise ships” – Post and Courier
4a) “Ahoy there, Carnival” – Post and Courier
5) “A broken vision” – Jay Williams cruise blog
6) Cruise Law News
7) “Venice, Charleston share a common hatred of cruise ships, sort of” — Chris Cruises
8) “So what does Charleston Get” – Jay Williams blog
9) “A Tale of Two Studies” – Jay Williams cruise blog with cited sources
10) “Carnival to redesign, rename 15-year-old cruise ship” -USA Today
11) “After Saturday’s Debacle…” Post and Courier
12) “Visitation hits record level where Civil War began” – Fox News
13) “So what does Charleston Get” – Jay Williams blog
14) “Match Gaillard plan to Community” – Evan Thompson – Post and Courier
15) Charleston Metro Area is 8th fastest growing in nation – Post and Courier

“Ain’t No Sunshine…”

Last month, Post and Courier columnist Brian Hicks penned starkly contrasting, back-to-back columns. One useful, one not.

“This is going to come as a huge shock, but South Carolina has flunked ‘corruption risk’ on its report card,” Mr. Hicks wrote. “We are one of eight states nationwide that received a failing grade in the State Integrity Investigation done by the Center for Public Integrity and some other groups. We got a 57.” More bluntly, South Carolina ranked as the 6th most corrupt state in America.(2)

Hicks cites “loophole-ridden campaign finance laws,” a toothless Ethics Commission, “a pension fund in shambles,” and a “legislature that has no control over a large part of the budget…” This worthy column includes the observation, “The problem here, despite all this baloney about transparency, is that this state is set up to allow a maximum amount of monkey business. The system has very few checks and balances, and we need them.”(3)

Here’s another example he didn’t mention. In 2011, The Nerve, a website dedicated to government accountability, wrote that the State Ports Authority (SPA) picked up a $29,000 tab for a three-day trip to Panama in September, 2010. “Besides covering most of the trip costs for the seven-member legislative group, which included two staffers, and eight Ports Authority staffers and board members, the Ports Authority also paid airfare and hotel costs for a representative of a Washington lobbying firm … and a senior vice president at the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce.” The other private parties paid their own expenses. The documents reveal that $1,600 [was] spent by the group on one dinner at a private club in Panama and another $1,440 was spent on books about the Panama Canal for the 24-member group. How do we know this? Because more than 100 pages of documents was provided to The Nerve by the SPA thanks to the SC Freedom of Information Act.

The Nerve noted that two lawmakers who went on the trip – Rep. Bill Sandifer, R-Oconee, and then-Rep. Harry Cato, R-Greenville – spent an extra day in Panama. The other three lawmakers who traveled with the group were Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley; Sen. Phillip Shoopman, R-Greenville; and Rep. David Weeks, D-Sumter. Grooms, chairman of the oversight commission that year, did repay $1490.47 in travel expenses from his “Grooms for Senate” account. “All five lawmakers are or were members of the Ports Authority Review and Oversight Commission, which is required to screen board candidates and conduct oversight reviews of the authority at least once every two years.”(4)

Then Mr. Hicks followed his useful first column with an officious diatribe, “When did we get holier than thou?”

“Charleston is no longer a sweet Southern belle — it’s an ornery old man,” Hicks claims, before railing against “some folks”…who “don’t like college kids downtown, can’t have tuk-tuks roaming the street, and they sure don’t want those infernal cruise ships. If they could send the horse carriages to the glue factory, they would. “And now, one single, solitary cigar bar is one too many.” Implying “snootiness,” Hicks attacks what he labels as the “‘No’ crowd,” saying “lately it’s just getting intolerant, and that’s no recipe for a vibrant city. During the cruise ship dustup, Mayor Joe Riley blasted these people who are against everything, pointing out that this is a living, breathing, working city — not a neighborhood.”

“Meanwhile, folks on the peninsula can’t even carry their wine with them on the Art Walk anymore,” Hicks rattles on, “Sure, the ‘No’ crowd wants to ban smoking and drinking, but they don’t even like tourists with black socks and sandals.”(5)

Hick’s unsupportable gross generalization is that anyone who opposes any issue downtown–say uncontrolled cruise ship activity–is, ipso facto, against everything. If that were true, the reverse would be true. People like Mayor Riley, who are all for cruise ships, must favor all the other stuff Hicks seems to want. But Mayor Riley has raised safety concerns about the doorless Tuk-tuks, noting that they “would contribute to a theme park atmosphere,” adding the police department is also against them.(6) The mayor is no fan of carting drinks from gallery to gallery during the Art Walk, either; he favors the uniform enforcement of the open container laws.(7)

Is it possible that people aren’t as simplistic as Mr. Hicks imagines?

It’s unfortunate that a columnist who advocates for government accountability would resort to a smoke screen of fustian and fantasy to belittle those whose views he opposes. We need only look at the national scene to see how unproductive that is. Charleston is at a crossroads. Rather than demean those daring to participate in public policy issues, we should encourage them. We’ve witnessed the SPA’s brutish tactics to propel a flawed proposal that squanders 30-acres of the most valuable downtown waterfront for stagnant parking lots and an expensive cruise terminal to be used mostly so people can sail away and spend money elsewhere. With such important issues facing Charleston, honest discussions are all too uncommon–instead, establishment posturing abounds.

On Good Friday, the Post and Courier’s front page headline read, “Growing Pains, Area faces hurdles in absorbing new residents.”(8) Metro Charleston is the eighth fastest growing area in the country, with 17,000 new residents in just over a year. Growth is changing Charleston’s future. The organizers of the “Bridge Run,” now capped at 40,000 participants, just learned that they can’t accommodate everyone downtown. The sooner everyone realizes that and agrees to work together to create a balance of what we can and can’t accommodate, the better.

–Jay

# # #
1) Public Hearing – Charleston Cruise Ship Terminal – Wed., April 18th at 6 p.m.
2) “America’s Most Corrupt States” – Fox Business
3) SC Fails in “Corruption Risk” Tally – Hicks, Post and Courier
http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20120324/PC1203/303249946
4) Ports Authority spends $29K on Panama Trip – The Nerve
5) “When did we get holier than thou?” –Hicks, Post and Courier
 6) Will tuk-tuks find a home on Charleston’s streets – P&C
7) Eat Drink and be Wary – Post and Courier editorial
8) Charleston metro area is 8th fastest growing in nation – Post and Courier

Calling on Carnival

2012 started badly for Carnival. What does that mean for Charleston?

Max Rossi/Reuters

“In the wake of the sinking of the Costa Concordia that killed 25 people (seven more remain missing) in January, a Senate panel…will look into safety, tax and environmental laws governing a cruise ship industry that carried 11 million North Americans last year,” said USA Today. “I believe we must ask why an industry that earns billions pays almost no corporate income tax,” says Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the transportation committee having the hearing, adding, “The environmental practices of the industry are unconscionable.”(1) A couple celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary on the Concordia “riveted lawmakers with their description of a crew that refused to tell them the ship had struck a reef or to explain how to evacuate. ‘We felt very betrayed, very much lied to,’ Sameer Sharma said. ‘They were not honest with us at any given point.'”

Then the Carnival-owned Costa Allegra had to be towed into port after a fire broke out and the ship lost power in the Indian Ocean. The 1000 passengers and crew were without running water, showers, or air-conditioning; “The toilets were running over, there was no electricity. It was very hot,” said one passenger who ate cold sandwiches for three days and moved her bedding onto the deck to escape the heat in her cabin.(2)

Finally, 22 Carnival Splendor passengers were robbed on a ship-sponsored nature excursion in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico by hooded bandits who demanded “everything,” backpacks and all. Passengers “were stripped of cameras, watches and other valuables they had with them.” (3/4/5)

How did Carnival’s management handle these crises? “They’ve been passive, they’ve been defensive, they’ve been whistling past the graveyard” rather than confronting and controlling the situation, says Fraser Seitel, president of PR consultants Emerald Partners, adding that Carnival CEO Micky Arison has been “invisible” during the crisis.(6) In a March 10th interview, one of his first after the January 13th Concordia disaster, Arison said, “I’m very sorry it happened,” and defended his actions following the shipwreck, saying he stayed in Miami to handle all the company’s 10 brands in the aftermath and to avoid becoming a “diversion” in Italy.(7) The Wall Street Journal was less charitable. Its story, “Carnival CEO lies low after wreck,” began, “Where is Micky Arison?” The article questioned “the wisdom of Mr. Arison’s not taking a more public role in the wake of the worst cruise line incident in years,” noting the size of Carnival Corp, with its 101 ships that carry 200,000 passengers and 70,000 crew on any given day.(8) Carnival’s vast size, with $16 billion in annual revenue, is enough to keep the company afloat and, perhaps, allows it to be as unresponsive as wishes.

Carnival’s sheer size should trouble Charlestonians. It’s not just the tax and environmental concerns that Sen. Rockefeller mentions, or the lack of safety controls that the US has over foreign-flagged ships, it’s the power a company that size has over any potential partners–including ports and cities. Without warning and with little advance notice, Carnival pulled out of Mobile last year after home-porting ships there since 2004. Al St. Clair, director of the Mobile, AL cruise terminal, said, “It came as a real shock.” St. Clair said that Carnival never had a discussion with him about any problems, allowing the port to make any improvements, saying he could have worked with Carnival.(9) The terminal, named Carnival’s port of the year in 2007, was highly rated by passengers; now, because of the pullout, 125 jobs were lost and a University of Southern Alabama economist puts the city’s loss at $22 million. Carnival declined to give comment on why the cruise line did not give Mobile a heads-up that something was wrong before the pullout.(10) Carnival also pulled ships out of San Diego(11) and slashed visits to Bermuda to just one for 2012.(12).

Could Carnival’s bad year, its detached responsiveness to crises, or it’s sudden abandonment of ports impact Charleston?

Residents in Charleston are trying to engage Carnival, but without success. A Post and Courier editorial, “Ahoy There, Carnival,” asks why Carnival still hasn’t responded to the Charleston Communities for Cruise Control’s January 5th letter asking about gray water discharges or incineration of garbage within 12-miles of shore, or reply to its request for a limit on the number, size and frequency of cruise ships coming to Charleston. And since Carnival’s own brochure says it “uses low-sulfur fuels voluntarily while cruising near environmentally sensitive as well as historical areas,” the editorial rightly queries, “What about Charleston?”(13)

The SPA isn’t helping. The SC State Ports Authority (SPA) has refused to release any information about its studies on alternative cruise terminal sites in Charleston. Did the SPA even conduct them? The SPA also refuses to require shore-side power to eliminate the toxic bunker fuel exhaust spewing from cruise ships idling in port.(14) But as some cities have gotten grants to provide such power, and since Carnival has committed to using shore power in Long Beach, CA, why won’t the SPA require it to protect Charleston’s residents and tourists alike?

And given Carnival’s recent problems and history, there’s this key question: Where is the SPA’s contract with Carnival? And what guarantees are in it for Charleston?

The mayor, city council, and the SPA have ignored repeated requests to intercede to get responses from Carnival. When the mayor, SPA, and Carnival all refuse to answer reasonable questions, one can only guess why. Power and money can make reasonable people unreasonable. Is that the case here, or is there something that people in power don’t want us to know? If Charlestonians are going to get the answers they deserve, they’re going to have to crank up their own version of shore side power.

–Jay

# # #

 
1) Costa Concordia Passengers tell Congress they felt Betrayed – USA Today
2) In Scheyells, Scary moments described aboard ship – Fox News video
http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2012/03/01/in-seychelles-scary-moments-described-aboard-ship/#ixzz1pVBSS600
3) 22 Cruise passengers robbed at gunpoint – CBS News video
http://www.petergreenberg.com/2012/02/27/22-cruise-passengers-robbed-in-mexico-a-cbs-this-morning-report/
4) 22 Carnival Cruise passengers robbed at gunpoint – Fox News
http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/02/27/22-carnival-cruise-ship-passengers-robbed-at-gunpoint-in-mexico/#ixzz1noVVpuMr
5) Gadling – Huffington Post blog
http://www.gadling.com/2012/02/25/crime-in-mexico-cruise-passengers-robbed-at-gunpoint/
6) PR Crisis for Carnival after Danger on Cruise Ships – Fox News video
http://video.foxnews.com/v/1477011528001/pr-crisis-for-carnival-after-danger-on-cruise-ships
7) Micky Arison on Costa Concordia accident – Miami Herald
http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/03/09/v-fullstory/2684790/carnivals-micky-arison-speaks.html#storylink=cpy
8) Carnival CEO lies low after wreck – WSJ
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204624204577177131752006116.html
9) Carnival to leave Mobile; officials shocked, saddled with cruise terminal debt. – Al. com
http://blog.al.com/live/2011/03/carnival_jumping_ship_from_mob.html
10) A Surprise Ending: Why did Carnival Ditch Mobile with No Warning
11) Carnival Cruise Lines to Pull out of San Diego – USA Today
12) Carnival’s late notice on berths leaves Bermuda ‘disappointed’ – Travel Weekly
13) Ahoy there, Carnival – Post and Courier editorial
14) Go Green with Cruise Ships – Post and Courier editorial

A Tale of Two Studies

…the cruise industry: “It’s like a circus.”

The long-awaited Historic Charleston Foundation Cruise Ship Study executive summary is out. This new study demolishes the findings in the Crotts and Hefner (C&H) 2010 study conducted for the State Ports Authority (SPA)(1), and it decimates the rosy forecasts for cruise ship tourism. The Post and Courier editorial about it was headlined, “Report on Cruise Industry should open City’s Eyes.”(2) It won’t open the mayor’s eyes, but it should open yours.

Here are a few highlights from this new HCF Study conducted by Miley & Associates:

√ – That over-hyped $37 million annual spending number from the old study was always suspect. Promoted by the SPA to parade the economic benefits of cruise ships for the City of Charleston, the new HCF study says that figure is not merely “overstated,” but any benefits are spread out across three counties, not just the City of Charleston. The study concludes that positive “impacts on the City of Charleston are a fraction of that $37 million.” – “Miley & Associates found that the hotels most benefiting from cruises are not in the historic city,” but in North Charleston and Mt. Pleasant. √ – “[T]hat Carnival Cruise Lines purchases most supplies directly from manufacturers, not from local merchants,” so these projected revenues in the original C&H/SPA study must be deducted from that inflated $37 million figure. √ – “The [HCF] study found that cruise ship passengers visiting Charleston spend only one-tenth of what other tourists spend,” or $66-a-day for cruise passengers vs. the $718-a-day for traditional Charleston tourists! √- And the HCF study “casts considerable doubts” on the prediction that cruise ships will create “407 new jobs [as] presented in [the original] report…widely cited by the SPA, the City of Charleston, and the General Assembly…”(3)

So not only has the SPA been selling an overblown, Pollyannaish, bill-of-goods about the alleged benefits of cruise ship tourism, it ignored the major risks: – It took years of planning and effort for the City of Charleston to become a world-class tourist destination, but a “tipping point” may be reached with the “city’s reputation…harmed by the perception that is has been overrun by the cruise industry.” – There is also a risk that cruise lines could leave Charleston as quickly as they came (Carnival has 78% of the City’s cruise ship passengers). Cruise lines recently pulled out of Mobile, San Diego and Norfolk–“leaving communities holding the bag–or the bill–for multi-million dollar facilities” similar to the $35 million terminal that the SPA, a state agency, is championing for Union Pier. Incidentally, has anyone seen the SPA’s agreement with Carnival? – Then there is the continuous, noxious, bunker fuel air pollution and noise from the ships.

The original C&H-SPA study also failed to calculate the costs related to cruise ship tourism, from the expense of extra police details to handle auto and pedestrian traffic to the intangible cost of the extra time it takes to commute when ships are docked. The C&H study did not estimate the impact of cruise ship tourism the retail landscape of downtown Charleston, positive or negative, even though we’ve seen changes. It did not compute possible health costs tied to pollution. It certainly didn’t calculate the opportunity cost to the City of forgoing the private, multi-use development of the entire 65-acre Union Pier waterfront property that should feature parks, shops, restaurants, hotels and condos, with huge taxable benefits to the city–all lost by sacrificing much of that land for a warehouse-like terminal and endless acres of cruise parking.

So how did the first study get it so wrong? Professors Crotts and Hefner made several assumptions. C&H estimated impacts over three county area, yet the study was widely seen as a study on benefits to the City of Charleston. C&H added hoped-for revenues that never materialized; ignoring, for example, Carnival’s system to provision its regional ships from its Florida headquarters, buying little locally. C&H also exaggerated job creation; most of the jobs needed to handle cruise ships already exist in any port city. Then they plugged their limited data into IMPLAN (4), an economic impact software program that some say is inappropriate to evaluate a tightly controlled, mobile, vertically integrated business like the cruise industry. IMPLAN introduces “multipliers” that may have further exaggerated results.

The cruise industry is different. “It’s a lot like a circus,” said one respected economist and researcher. Traditional businesses and industries, from Croghan’s Jewelry Box to Boeing, buy property, build, buy or lease buildings, pay business, property and sales taxes, hire and train local people, and along with their employees, create deep community roots within local schools, charities, hospitals, museums etc. But the tightly controlled, vertically integrated, mostly offshore cruise industry doesn’t. “It’s a lot like a circus” that comes to town, tries to get everyone under the big tent (or on the big ship), sells them as many things inside as possible, then pulls out when the customers stop coming. “I like the circus,” he said, “but it doesn’t invest in a community in the way a traditional business or industry does.”

Dr. Harry Miley put it more delicately, “Details of the scheduling and logistics of passengers and suppliers coupled with the extremely efficient operating techniques of the cruise industry leave little room for positive economic impacts on the City.”(5)

The Post and Courier accurately observes, “the stakes are high regarding the cruise industry,” and that the new HCF study “confirms concerns that preservationists, environmentalists and many downtown residents have been expressing. City Hall should pay heed”(2) Good luck on that.

-Jay

# # #
1) Port’s Cruise Ship Business worth $37M, study says – Charleston Business Journal
2) “Report on Cruise Industry Should Open City’s Eyes” – P & C
3) “The Cruise Industry in Charleston – A Clear Perspective – Executive Summary,” Miley & Assoc.
4) IMPLAN – economic impact modeling software
5) “Independent and Objective Economic Report…” HCF website story