Posts Tagged charleston skyline

Cruise opponents see dark lining in Sunshine’s arrival

Charleston residents battling the cruise ship industry say Carnival Cruise Lines’ plans to have another cruise ship depart from here next year is proof that their fight is a necessary one.

“I think we knew it was coming,” said Carrie Agnew, executive director of the Charleston Communities for Cruise Control, which has bought billboards and pursued legal action to torpedo the cruise industry’s growth here.

The addition of the Carnival Sunshine and its 3,000 potential passengers has reinforced Cruise Control’s message and already added to its mailing list, Agnew said.

“There are those who just don’t see the big picture and say, ‘Everything is fine now. Why should we be concerned?’ ” Agnew said. “So many people also have said, ‘Charleston is at a tipping point.’ I stood up at a meeting and said, ‘We’re not at a tipping point. We’ve tipped over,’ and now we’re adding more fuel to the fire.”

On Monday, Carnival Cruise Lines announced it will add five departures from Charleston next year for the Sunshine. Carnival’s Fantasy, which holds about 1,000 fewer passengers, will continue to call Charleston its home port.

The Sunshine will offer cruises of between two and 10 days between Charleston and ports in the Bahamas, St. Thomas, Antigua, Martinique, St. Kitts and San Juan.

State Ports Authority director Jim Newsome said the port will maintain its level of fewer than 104 cruise ship departures next year.

One of the biggest issues in Charleston’s yearslong cruise ship fight is fear that the city eventually will be overrun by larger ships carrying ever more passengers and calling on the city more often.

City and State Ports Authority officials say those concerns are unfounded, and they have agreed to limit cruise ships to no more than an average of two calls here a week, and no more than one at a time. Opponents want those voluntarily limits written into a law.

Cruise ship supporters have said the industry is an important part of the Lowcountry’s larger tourism economy, a source of jobs and a continuation of an activity that this port city has had from its earliest days.

Opponents said they don’t want to ban all cruise ships, but they want the authority to consider sites other than Union Pier, and sites farther from the city’s historic district, for its new cruise ship terminal. Legal wrangling over that site — the 60 acres between Market, Washington and Laurens streets and the harbor — has slowed the state’s plans to redevelop the blighted area.

Cruise opponents also said not enough is being done to address traffic congestion caused by ship visits, air pollution from smokestacks, noise from ship horns and public address systems, and the visual impact on the city’s historic skyline. They have filed legal challenges in both state and federal courts.

Blan Holman, managing attorney for the Charleston office of the Southern Environmental Law Center and a lawyer for the cruise ship opponents, said the news of the Sunshine’s visits here next year shows the cruise industry can get bigger in Charleston.

“And that just makes thorough review of a new, larger terminal more important than ever to make sure we examine all options for reducing pollution and traffic and impacts on families and neighborhoods,” he said.

Randy Pelzer, head of the Charles Towne Neighborhood’s cruise ship task force, said news of the Sunshine’s arrival doesn’t mean much in terms of current legal battles, “but I think it points out that residents aren’t consulted in terms of the larger number of cruise ships that impact them.”

“I was surprised there wasn’t any effort to notify the residents ahead of time, that we found out about it after it was a done deal,” he added, “but that’s the way it has been from the beginning.”

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.
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Federal judge denies extension in cruise terminal lawsuit

The federal government shutdown is not cause for an extension in a lawsuit challenging a $35 million cruise terminal the State Ports Authority wants to open in downtown Charleston. In a recent ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Gergel said the shutdown doesn’t give him the authority to change a deadline coming up this week in the federal complaint. The lawsuit is challenging an Army Corps of Engineers permit for the proposed passenger building at Union Pier. The Army Corps asked Gergel this month to extend Wednesday’s deadline to respond to his order requiring the agency to go back and review the project more thoroughly. The Army Corps said in court records that the federal shutdown has caused a lapse in funding at the U.S. Department of Justice, which is representing it in the lawsuit. The Coastal Conservation League and the Preservation Society of Charleston filed the case after the Army Corps issued a permit allowing five pilings to be driven on the waterfront. The pilings are needed to help transform an existing warehouse into the new passenger building.

The opposition groups have said the agency didn’t take into account the impact on historic properties. Gergel agreed. In September, he ordered the Army Corps to redo the study with a more extensive review of the effects on the environment and historic properties. The ports authority, which has joined the lawsuit as a defendant, has been seeking to relocate its cruise terminal to the north end of Union Pier from the south end for about three years. The complaint before Gergel is one of three lawsuits targeting cruise-ship operations in downtown Charleston.

Reach Tyrone Richardson at 937-5550 and follow him on Twitter @tyrichardsonPC.

F for Carnival Fantasy

Friends of the Earth has just released its Cruise Line Report Card for 2013, which can be viewed by clicking here.

This year’s Report Card compares the environmental footprint of 16 major cruise lines and 162 cruise ships, in order to help vacationers decide which cruise to take based on a cruise ship or cruise line’s environmental and human health impacts.
The Carnival Fantasy, for the fifth year in a row, earned an overall grade of an “F.” Carnival Cruise Lines began homeporting the Carnival Fantasy (the oldest ship in its fleet) in Charleston beginning in 2010.

The ship’s grade is the result of the following:

  • The ship lacks the most advanced sewage and wastewater treatment systems available, and instead dumps minimally treated sewage directly into the water.
  • The ship is not retrofitted to plug in to shorepower, and instead runs polluting engines when docked in the heart of our downtown area.
  • The ship utilizes higher sulfur fuels continuously.

Carnival Cruise Lines as a whole earned an overall grade of a “C-.” This is an improvement from prior grades over the years. Carnival Cruise Lines has 24 ships, and only two of those ships have advanced sewage treatment systems. The line has one ship operating in Alaska, and during the graded year received four citations from Alaskan authorities for violations of the state’s water pollution standards.
It is also important to distinguish that Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest cruise holder, owns nearly half of the lines in this report, not just Carnival Cruise Lines.

Updates on Venice and Key West

We recently updated both the Venice and Key West pages with information pertaining to their “battles” for cruise ship regulation. Please check them out and notice how each mirror what we face in Charleston!

Click for Venice

Click for Key West

Don’t ruin city, letter to the editor 10/5/13

Don’t ruin city

I live in Houston, and have made numerous trips to Charleston to be treated time after time to the most pleasant, lovely, historically fascinating, gentle and delightful city in America. I have lodged in hotels downtown, in private homes, and at Middleton Place, and dined in many of your fine restaurants. I cannot say enough about the attractiveness of Charleston.
You are about to ruin this idyllic city with cruise ships. You have a sophisticated city with much appeal to thoughtful travelers who don’t care to jostle on crowded sidewalks with hordes of tourists whose main interest is buying another trinket or a beer.

For the sake of Charleston, don’t let cruise ships make your city a tawdry place. Keep it what it has been for centuries, an historical magnet for the discerning visitor who comes to Charleston for several days, and sometimes weeks.

We spend real money in your fine hotels and restaurants, and some of us may eventually choose to live in Charleston. Don’t spoil it with cruise ships. If you do, we won’t come back, and a treasure will be lost.

Christian N. Seger

Ivanhoe Street

Houston, Texas

Power Struggle: You Cruise, You Lose!

As taken from The Post and Courier, by Frank Wooten:

Shoreside power to the cruise ships!

That variation on “Power to the people!” won’t generate a rallying cry for Charlestonians demanding that cruise ships use shoreside power when docked here.

But that contentious issue is still sparking hard feelings.

As plugged-in colleague Bo Petersen reported on our front page Wednesday, getting electricity to a cruise ship that “switches off its engine in port to keep from burning polluting fuel” requires an “outlet that zings enough juice to light up several thousand homes.”

However, the venerable Carnival Fantasy, which home-ports at the State Ports Authority’s cruise terminal on the south end of Union Pier, isn’t equipped for shoreside power.

Our story also reported that what “started this whole mess and continues to drive it is toxic black exhaust from the cruise ship smokestacks at dock as the engines provide the ship’s electric power.”

And that powers much of the opposition to the proposed new $35 million SPA terminal at the north end of Union Pier.

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley is on board with SPA President/CEO Jim Newsome for that plan, which includes an extensive — and expensive — waterfront redevelopment beyond the new terminal. Both men stress that you can’t have one (that grand redevelopment) without the other (that swell new terminal).

The Coastal Conservation League and Preservation Society of Charleston are among the groups challenging the terminal construction permit in court.

Some folks see the new terminal and its accompanying redevelopment as needed economic-engine boosters in what is, after all, our Port City.

Some folks question why the city gives cruise ships a virtually free regulatory ride — and why those massive motors should keep belching unhealthy emissions while those vessels are docked.

Some dignified downtown folks are aghast at the unseemly spectacle of cruise passengers clad in T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops roaming freely about our Holy City.

Hazardous voyages

Enough about that divisive power debate for now.

What powers cruisers our way in the first place?

From Carnival’s web site:

“Give in to the genteel feel of the old South on Carnival cruises from Charleston, South Carolina. This is a gracious city of antebellum homes and sprawling plantations, best appreciated from the comfort of a horse-drawn carriage. The city’s unique Low country cuisine and dozens of delicious restaurants make it a southern foodie destination.”

Gee, and we genteel types lucky enough to live in these parts can do all of that without packing ourselves like sardines with strangers on a big boat (actually, a ship).

Most of us who live here even know that Lowcountry is one word.

Anyway, regardless of your present location or desired destination, why risk the ordeals endured by far too many cruisers?

Three months ago, Carnival figuratively threw co-founder Micky Arison overboard from his 35-year job as CEO.

From an Associated Press dispatch: “Arison came under fire during Carnival’s bad publicity earlier in the year when a string of its cruise ships suffered through mechanical problems and fires. The most dramatic of them was the Carnival Triumph where passengers were stranded at sea for five days as toilets backed up and air conditioners failed. There were media reports of raw sewage seeping through walls and carpets.”

We non-cruisers drew fresh validation from those gruesome plumbing details.

Fortunately, though, you can vicariously savor high-seas romance without smelling any broken-down cruise-ship stench.

Just watch vintage reruns of “The Love Boat” online.

Exciting and new

That 1977-87 ABC diversion features a future U.S. House member (Iowa Republican Fred Grandy as ship’s purser Burl “Gopher” Smith) and guest-star rosters of show-biz has-beens (including future California Republican House member Sonny Bono as a rock singer who falls in love with a deaf woman).

Despite a generally breezy tone, the series’ subtle subtexts frequently explore expanding social consciousness.

A DVD synopsis of my favorite episode, from 1978:

“A beauty contest on board ship divides a couple (Maureen McCormick, Bobby Sherman). A reporter (Vicki Lawrence) falls for a disgraced congressman (Dick Van Patten).”

They don’t make TV shows like that anymore.

But they do still make disgraced congressmen.

And they make cruise ships that can use shoreside power.

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.

 

It’s a Bird! It’s Plane! No… It’s a Smokestack…

A photo from a visitor who was enjoying the panoramic pristine views of the Holy City at The Vendue Inn’s Roof Top Bar.  Not sure which is more fetching… the smog or the larger-than-life red “whale tail” of a smokestack out of which it’s pouring…

SmokeStack

Smokestack over Vendue

 

(photo credit: Allison Hornberger)