Viewpoints

“Cruise chaos” by Richard L. Black, a former Charleston County administrator, comments from Florida.

Living a short distance from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., I observe almost daily the arrival and departure of cruise ships and thousands of passengers, and the autos needed to accommodate them.

The complicated and demanding logistics associated with cruise ship operations impact heavily on the local terminal and facilities in contiguous areas.

The scene is chaotic when a behemoth (a cruise ship with as many as 4,000 and 5,000 passengers and ship staff members) docks to load or unload.

Having served as the Charleston County administrator for over a decade (1968-1979), I have a special love and respect for Charleston — its history, tradition, culture and exclusiveness.

Accordingly, as I understand the proposed cruise terminal and its anticipated impact on the Charleston historical district, I would recommend denial and suggest that some other non-intrusive venue be explored. Charleston deserves every favorable consideration in this most important matter.

RICHARD L. BLACK
North Ocean Drive
Lauderdale by the Sea, FL

(Also published in P&C.)

“Where are leaders?” by W.C. Wilson- Church Street, Charleston, SC

On July 24, The Post and Courier published a story from The Washington Post about new regulations regarding the “heavy fuel” ships burn and the sulfur content of this fuel. Beginning Aug. 1, the sulfur content of fuel had to drop from 2.7 percent to 1 percent for ships within 200 miles of U.S. and Canadian shorelines. By 2015, the standard will drop to 0.1 percent.

The article gave credit to the George W. Bush administration in 2007, the U.S. and Candian governments, the International Maritime Organization and the Obama administration. Add the Environmental Protection Agency and you have a lot of people who think big ship pollution is a very serious subject.

Now if I am the guy in charge of our city or the guy who heads up our port, or the guy who runs the big ship, I would want the local population to think I’m at the forefront of the battle to get sulfur dioxide under control. If this subject is in the public eye, I want to look like a leader who is interested in the safety of the city’s inhabitants.

If there is concern about the health of our populace, I want to be part of the conversation regarding solutions — regulations that will improve the situation. Why would I want to be anything else?

It is my opinion that our leadership is in an obstructionist mode. Not so long ago, smoking cigarettes with a percentage content of nicotine was acceptable in public places. Old Humphrey Bogart movies show the actor almost constantly lighting up. For the last 30 to 40 years, we have come to realize the horrendous effects of cigarette smoke and nicotine on our health, and thus we now ban smoking in public places.

I understand that it takes time to accomplish these changes. What I do not understand is our Charleston leaders’ obstructionist stance in the current debate on sulfur dioxide pollution from big ships in our harbor. We want our leaders to be at the forefront of this conversation. We want our leaders to be interested in our health. We want to trust them.

It is time to sit at the table together and do the right things.

W. C. WILSON
Church Street
Charleston

(Also published in P&C.)

“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.)

“Cruise-ship battle not so one-sided”: a Dana Beach editorial in The State- “…(the cruise business is) one half of one percent of the (economic) impact of freight.”

The leaders of the state Chamber of Commerce and Manufacturers Alliance are vigorously defending the State Ports Authority’s effort to “aggressively pursue cruise line business” and spend $35 million in public funds on a new terminal to serve Carnival Cruise Lines, a Panama corporation that recently designated Charleston as a homeport for the Carnival  Fantasy.

In their July 22 column (“Cruise terminal essential to port’s future”), Otis Rawl and Lewis Gossett assert that the port needs to diversify “to remain competitive.” Well, diversify it has done. Between 2009 and 2012, cruise visits rose from 33 per year to more than 80. Meanwhile, freight volumes have plummeted. In 2000, Charleston was the fourth-busiest container port in the country; today it ranks ninth.

If a tripling of cruise ships has accompanied a precipitous decline in container volume, the Rawl/Gossett remedy is … more cruise traffic. Strange logic, indeed.

Rawl and Gossett praise the port for generating $7.1 billion in annual economic activity for the Charleston area, but they fail to acknowledge that even at maximum capacity, the cruise business will contribute only $37 million. That’s one half of one percent of the impact of freight. On this and other points, Rawl and Gossett should have reviewed the facts before they maligned Charleston residents who, they claim, “seek to stop” cruise industry development.

First, concerned residents have not attempted to stop cruise visits. Instead, for two and a half years we have asked for enforceable standards for cruise ships, like those every other business in Charleston or Columbia must abide by.

We have promoted a cap of 104 visits annually, a number the State Ports Authority has consistently stated is the market limit for Charleston. But when ports officials were asked to put the cap in writing, they refused. We also have sought a written agreement that ships will not discharge sewage closer than 12 miles from shore, a pledge the cruise lines have made repeatedly but, again, refuse to put in writing.

Today, cruise ships, burning dirty diesel fuel, run their engines constantly while in port. We have asked that they plug into shoreside power so they can turn their engines off while they are docked. Shoreside power is used extensively in cities with cruise traffic. But like every other request we’ve made, it was rejected by the Ports Authority and the city of Charleston.

Human health problems are not the only risk South Carolina faces from an uncontrolled cruise industry. The history of public investment in elaborate new cruise terminals reveals a trail of wasted taxpayer funds. Mobile, Ala., for example, constructed an expensive terminal for Carnival Cruise Lines. Seven years later, Carnival pulled out, leaving the city with a mountain of debt.

The most ridiculous aspect of Rawl’s and Gossett’s column is their accusation that Charleston’s cruise-control advocates have “harmful and sinister motives … to weaken the financial condition of the port so that it cannot effectively meet current customer demands or expand to meet the needs of future job creators,” and that legal challenges are merely “vehicles to meet the needs of selfish lawyers and self-proclaimed conservationists.” Rawl and Gossett also allege that concerned Charleston residents have benefited from the port and that “in their misguided, ill-intentioned methods, they would deny the same success to you.”

Who knew? Not since the days of Sen. Joseph McCarthy (“I have here in my hands a list …”) have we seen such a dark conspiracy. Presumably, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the World Monuments Fund share these same subversive motives, because both have placed Charleston on their “watch lists” due to the risks of uncontrolled cruise visitation.

With all of their chest-beating, Rawl and Gossett miss the most important point. The cruise debate has diverted time, energy and money away from the Ports Authority’s ability to carry out its core mission. Their persistence in promoting what port management describes as a small component of its overall business is a foolish indulgence when our state should be pulling together to promote real economic development.

Mr. Beach is executive director of the Coastal Conservation League; contact him at DanaBeach@scccl.org.

“Better cruise emissions possible”- a P&C editorial today: “Those insisting that it is not necessary to institute enforceable restrictions on air emissions from cruise ships in Charleston could be leaning on a weak reed.”

“…Until it is sure that the regulations will stand and that the cruise industry will abide by them, people who live or work in the area of the passenger terminal should not get complacent.” Read entire editorial. 

“House Cleaning”- a letter by Carrie Agnew: “The exhaust emitted by the Fantasy is a proven carcinogen.”

House cleaning

I believe that a number of people misunderstood the point made in a July 3 article regarding the increased amount of soot/airborne particulate matter being experienced downtown as a result of Carnival Fantasy home-porting here.

The issue is that this is the air we are breathing.

The exhaust emitted by the Fantasy is a proven carcinogen. People are already experiencing bronchial and other health issues as a result.

The local and state medical associations have expressed deep concerns.

Soot from engines idling while in port is evidence of a health issue that alarms the S.C. Medical Association. Our “Soot Away” flags focus on this health issue.

Solutions are possible, but Carnival has not responded to repeated inquiries about living up to policies and practices it uses at other ports as described in its own Sustainability Report.

Unfortunately, the only way you can physically see these emissions is by swiping the black, greasy debris from a window sill or ceiling fan. The winds carry it and deposit it throughout the eastern portion of the downtown peninsula.

The soot does not, as some would like us to believe, just fall “straight down.” The breeze carries it across much of the Charleston area, and many people should be concerned — not simply those of us who live south of Calhoun Street. And it is not, as proven by testing, the same “dirt” caused by cars and trucks on the roads.

Just because we experience other forms of air pollution does not mean we shouldn’t control these air-borne emissions.

The problem can be resolved by using shoreside power — as is used, for example, in Juneau, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Brooklyn.

At what point is the health and well-being of tax-paying residents, business owners and workers trumped by the cost of being pro-active and having the cruise ships utilize shore power as they do in so many other, less residential and historically sensitive places?

Carrie Agnew, Executive Director
Charleston Communities for Cruise Control (C4)
Hasell Street
Charleston

A.D. Heathcock’s letter- “Tourism’s Toll”: “Each week, Carnival Cruise lines dumps 1,500-plus tourists who compete for sidewalk space with those staying in expensive hotels.”

Tourism’s toll

Those who advocated for unlimited tourism in the Charleston area are now seeing the results of that argument. Numbers really do matter. Folly Beach can accommodate a few beer drinkers, but I doubt that busloads of drunks were ever in anyone’s plan.

Each week, Carnival Cruise lines dumps 1,500-plus tourists who compete for sidewalk space with those staying in expensive hotels.

Unfortunately, you can’t control who comes to visit or how much they spend while they are here. Now, there’s no going back. A retreat from tourism would mean unoccupied hotels and restaurants and the resulting loss of employment opportunities.

When I first visited Charleston in the early ’60s I thought it was a terrible place to visit but probably would a great place to live. Perhaps the reverse is starting to happen.

The situation may resolve itself. As Yogi Berra once said about a St. Louis restaurant, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

A.D. Heathcock
Palisades Drive
Mount Pleasant

It’s About Control: a letter by David B. Hoffman

I was once again disappointed by Brian Hicks’ populist rant against
residents of “highfalutin” downtown and their quest for control of the cruise
industry.

I have lived and worked in downtown Charleston for 33 years and seen
the current renaissance of the city and all of the wonderful work that has made
Charleston what it is. The hard work of a lot of citizens has made this
happen.

I have also seen both the positive and negative effects of this
success and the associated influx of visitors. Brian Hicks simplifies the cruise
business argument to one vein — the “haves” don’t want the rest of the
population clogging their neighborhoods.

But he overlooks just how often residents already open these
neighborhoods as well as their residences.

There are spring and fall tours, special events such as the Bridge
Run, Turkey Day Run, Spoleto, Southeastern Wildlife, Wine & Food Festival,
Charleston Fashion Week — just to name a few.

Over the course of a year, innumerable events take place downtown,
all sponsored or supported by residents.

If Mr. Hicks wants to stroll down any downtown street, he is able to. And the reason he might want to do so is the neighborhood’s ambiance and history — neighborhood that was landscaped, restored and maintained by residents at considerable time and expense.

The issue is about control. The peninsula is a finite space, but many
feel that opportunities to put more visitors into the peninsula are endless.
Therefore the number of bodies and traffic need some control before the
peninsula is over-saturated and the quality of living disappears.

The cruise industry needs to be regulated as are all other
tourist-related businesses,

David B. Hoffman
Pitt Street, Charleston

June 16th P&C letter to the editor from JACK SIMMONS: Chairman, Committee to Save the City

Two studies, one fix: Regulate cruises, P&C, June 16, 2012.

While it is refreshing that continued attention is being given to the impact of cruise ships on Charleston’s ambiance, it is also ironic that the conclusions of Miley and Associates (commissioned study by The Historic Charleston Foundation) are essentially the same as those of the Cruise Ship Task Force appointed by Mayor Joe Riley in 2003 and hosted by the Historic Charleston Foundation (HCF).

I served on that committee and while residents fought “tooth and nail” with proponents of the cruise industry, we were all able to agree on the following points:

 

» Establish a cruise ship advisory council of residents and industry leaders to monitor and make regulatory recommendations. We strongly agreed on the need for enforceable regulations.

» Limit commercial passenger vessels (250 or more) to the existing South Carolina Ports Authority cruise ship facility, thus, in effect, limiting the number of such ships to no more than one a day. We felt that even this daily number could overwhelm the residential quality of life, so there was a recommendation to focus marketing on the smaller luxury segment. The current proposal to build a larger cruise ship terminal opens the door to multiple larger vessels overtaxing our environment.

» Expand the noise ordinance to include cruise ships.

»Charge an additional $2 passenger city tax to help offset costs of cruise ship traffic management downtown  (Cruise Ship Task Force Final Draft 2003).

Kudos to HCF for not sweeping this under the rug.  Perhaps it is finally time for the mayor, City Council, and the State Ports Authority to listen to the residents who are so directly affected. Instituting the recommendations of 2003 would have saved us all much weeping, wailing and angst, as well as cracked teeth.

Move terminal- a letter by Joan H. Hazelton, Limehouse Street 29401

A recent letter acknowledged one important fact: the need to regulate cruise ships. The writer added that even the Fantasy, one of Carnival’s smallest ships, “is grossly out of scale with Charleston” and “overwhelms the skyline.”

The letter writer wondered if the conversation would “be the same if it weren’t Carnival Cruise Lines.” Yes. For the same reasons the writer gave.

These ships are grossly out of scale with Charleston’s colonial-era skyline. These ships are too close to the center city, and there is no regulation on their size or number, or on their noise, soot, traffic or other impacts.

Cruise ships, regardless of what name is stenciled on the side, don’t belong downtown. In major historic cities like Boston and Philadelphia, cruise terminals are located at their old Navy Yards, away from downtown and the historic districts.

Many people don’t understand that cruisers boarding “home-ported” ships like the “Fantasy” spend little money in Charleston because they aren’t visiting Charleston. They are taking their vacation in the Caribbean.

The reason that traditional and heritage tourists outspend them 10-to-1 is not because they’re going on a budget cruise line, it’s because they are going on a pre-paid cruise and are not here to tour and stay in Charleston.

Vacationers at every income level are always welcome in Charleston. But no small city downtown, especially a charming, historic city like Charleston, should damage its attractiveness and historic fabric by building a $35 million airport-equivalent cruise terminal for people who are merely parking here so they can go and vacation elsewhere. That’s why the Columbus Street Terminal near the Ravenel Bridge or the Veteran’s Terminal near the old Navy yard, conveniently located near major highways, would be far better choices for a cruise terminal.

Charleston’s small size has barely enough space for tourists who want to visit Charleston. What is at risk is that those tourists (and residents) who do spend money here, and don’t sail elsewhere, will have their Charleston experience spoiled.

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