Once again, the cruise lines want us to “just trust” them….

What the Cruise Industry Isn’t Telling You: Crime Stats Explored by Peter Greenburg

The cruise lines would like to be complemented for voluntarily releasing their crime statistics. The problem is that their figures are not produced by an independent authority with free access to all files. The figures are prepared by the cruise line itself, which has an interest in minimizing the appearance of crime.

Take for example: cruise lines have chosen to report assaults with serious bodily injury, but do not report simple assault, yet simple assaults occurred 11 times more frequently than assault with serious bodily injury on Royal Caribbean ships in 2007-08.Similarly, cruise lines have chosen to report thefts of over $10,000, but not thefts of lesser amounts – in 2007-08 the number of thefts on Carnival Cruise Lines’ ships were 24 times higher than the number of thefts over $10,000. By avoiding these categories (and others), the cruise lines mislead the consumer into believing crime is less prevalent than it is.

It isn’t only a matter of the categories under which they report data. What about the data they do report. It is illuminating to compare the number of crimes reported on a cruise line’s website and the number reported for the same crime by the FBI to the Senate Commerce Committee. For example, the FBI says it received 40 reports of sexual assault on Carnival ships, but Carnival reports on its website a total of 17. Why would the company report to the FBI more crimes under this category than they report on the voluntary disclosure spreadsheet on their website. There are discrepancies, not as stark, with other cruise lines.

There are other ways cruise lines attempt to minimize their crime statistics. There are known crime events that have been reported in the media that appear to be not included in cruise line online reports. Also, cruise corporations combine cruise lines in order to dilute the rate of crime on ships. For example, Carnival combines four cruise lines – Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Seabourn Cruises – and then computes the crime rate. But this creates misleading statistics. Carnival Cruise Lines accounts for 46 percent of the passengers population on ships belonging to these four brands, however in 2007-08 Carnival Cruise Lines accounted for 87 percent of the sexual assaults and 96 percent of the thefts. The rate of crime is significantly lower on the other cruise lines than on Carnival Cruise Lines; by averaging across the lines it gives the appearance that Carnival is safer than it actually is.

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NINTH Letter to Carnival Regarding Our Very Real Concerns

With a new CEO heading up Carnival Corp., C4 continues to hope for a response to our efforts to obtain a response to some of our very real concerns

July 23, 2013

Mr. Arnold W. Donald
CEO
Carnival Corporation
3655 N.W. 87th Avenue
Miami, FL  33178-2428

Dear Mr. Donald:

Congratulations on becoming CEO of Carnival Corporation.  We believe your broad business experience will serve Carnival well.

One area we suggest for focus is community relations and insuring adherence to Carnival’s values as stated in its Sustainability Report.

Our community group in Charleston has attempted for over eighteen months to engage Carnival in a dialogue with respect to its homeport operations in Charleston.  In a series of eight letters, we have asked a number of relevant questions and gotten no responses.  A copy of the most recent letter is enclosed.

We will simplify the task of Carnival responding to important questions about community impact in Charleston, repeatedly asked, by now focusing on one simple question:  If the South Carolina State Ports Authority provided shore power facilities at Union Pier or an alternative terminal, would Carnival fit the Fantasy to use shore power?

The South Carolina Medical Association and the Charleston County Medical Society have adopted resolutions calling for shore power to avoid human health risks.  The Charleston Post and Courier has called for shore power for cruise ship operations.  Many Charleston residents in the historic neighborhoods near Union Pier are flying “no soot” flags to protest cruise ship air pollution.

The City of Charleston has initiated a Green Business Challenge in which, given Mayor Joe Riley’s support for your cruise operations, we certainly expect Carnival (like Boeing) to participate.  Shore power would be a logical and welcome component.  One of the City’s partners in GBC is the Medical University of South Carolina.  Please let the City know of your plans to participate.

The use of shore power would eliminate pollution impact issues and allow thoughtful reconsideration of the best location for a cruise ship terminal.  Please understand that none of the groups questioning the location, pollution and congestion of a cruise ship terminal are opposed to cruise ships.

It is obvious that cities with terminals reasonably distant from historic and residential areas and with shore power facilities have done it “right”.  We look forward to your response and participation in helping Charleston get it right.

With regards,

Carrie Agnew

Executive Director; C4

 

cc:
Mr. Gerry Cahill, CEO Carnival Cruise Lines
Sir John Parker, Carnival HESS director

Encls:         Letter dated February 11, 2013

 

 

 

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Letter to Senator Durbin Considering Port Cities

With recent government attempts to obtain more respect for cruise PASSENGERS’ rights and safety, we are hoping to also bring attention to the same for cruise PORT CITIES.

July 30, 2013

The Honorable Richard Durbin
711 Hart Senate Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Durbin:

We thank you for your efforts to increase cruise lines responsibility to American passengers.

As a well-subscribed non-profit in Charleston SC seeking legally binding regulations for cruise lines to adhere to when in port, may we suggest you consider our Cruise Ship Code of Conduct as well?

The Code was written as voluntary guidelines cruise lines visiting our city could adhere to. We believe it can easily be adapted to specific/applicable concerns of other port Cities.  We have mailed it to Carnival Corporation and its Board four times, with no response. Carnival is a Panama corporation which pays little or no U.S. taxes, yet its cruise ships place large environmental and quality of life burdens on communities.

In addition, our organization has been actively seeking the requirement of shore power by the home port cruise ships (currently Carnival Fantasy, which visits at least 60 times a year) and port of call ships.  The use of shore power to address health concerns is increasingly common, especially in the use of new terminals—Charleston has one in the planning stages.

We believe that, as important as it is for passengers on a voyage be protected, so should the cities—and citizens therein—the cruise lines use as a home port base.  They place burdens on City infrastructure, residents, businesses and ambiance.  Too often, as seen with Mobile, San Diego and Norfolk, cruise companies can simply change their mind, leaving the purpose built facilities abandoned.

We hope you will consider our concerns, outlined in detail on our website CharlestonCruiseControl.org, and consider including our Cruise Ship Code of Conduct among the actions you seek on behalf of the American people.

The cruise lines, Carnival specifically in this case, have been totally unresponsive regarding requests for dialogue, explanation of different practices in various ports and the lack of implementation of their own Sustainability Report as it pertains to historic and or environmentally sensitive port cities.

With regards,

Carrie Agnew
Executive Director, C4

cc:     Sen. Jay Rockefeller

 

ENCLOSURE – Charleston Code of Cruise Ship Conduct:

The Charleston Tourism Ordinance states that the purpose of tourism regulation is “to maintain, protect and promote the tourism industry and economy of the city and, at the same time, to maintain and protect the tax base and land values of the city, to reduce unnecessary traffic and pollution and to maintain and promote aesthetic charm and the quality of life for the residents of the city.”

Cruise lines must realize that in Charleston their cruise ships docking at Union Pier literally sit at the doorstep of residential neighborhoods and significant historic districts.  These neighborhoods and communities deserve to have all visiting cruise ships adhere to the following standards:

1.  Cruise ships should respect the traditional height, mass and scale standards of the city.  No ships with passenger and crew capacity above 3,000 should regularly visit the city.

2.  Cruise ships add to congestion, pollution and visual obstruction.   There should be no more than two cruise ships in Charleston during a single week.

3.  Charleston is an old city and the air quality impacts not only those living and visiting, but also the buildings themselves. Ships running hotelling engines constantly while in port should connect to onshore power or, if onshore power is not available, should burn low sulfur fuel and request that onshore power be made available to them.

4.  Charleston waters deserve respectful treatment.  Cruise ships should not discharge gray water or black water or incinerate garbage within twelve miles of shore.

5.  Residents of the peninsula area are sensitive to loud noise because it reverberates between buildings.  Cruise ships should avoid making external announcements and playing music via external speakers while in port.  Cruise ships should not use horns or PA systems more than required by International Maritime Organization safety.

6.  Cruise lines are not currently required to pay accommodation or passenger taxes in Charleston unlike other port cities. Cruise lines should voluntarily pay an impact fee of $5 per passenger into a fund for community improvement as a show of respect and appreciation for the maintenance required for upkeep.

7.  Cruise ships should support the local Charleston/South Carolina economy by purchasing provisions from local vendors.

8.  Trust, but verify.  Cruise lines should provide quarterly data about fuel used, discharges made and local purchasing to allow measurement against these standards.

 

 

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We can learn from other cities…

There have been a few editorials in the Post and Courier lately – it seems that our city leaders could stand to learn from other cities, figure out the problems and come up with a solution…

July 26, 2013 letter to the editor:

In response to the July 14 letter noting that the air was cleaner and it was quieter around the cruise ships dock in Vancouver: In 2009, Port Metro Vancouver became the first port in Canada to install shore power for cruise ships, allowing ships to shut down their diesel engines and connect to a land-based electrical grid while docked.

The costs were shared by the Canadian government, British Columbia Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, BC Hydro and the port. They won international awards for this effort. So maybe Charleston leaders could convene a similar group and lead the way for the Southeast coast.

T. L. Herbert
Brantley Drive, Charleston

July 14, 2013 letter to the editor:

I just had the opportunity to visit Vancouver, British Columbia, for several days. Vancouver has embraced the cruise ship industry. They have a spectacular cruise ship terminal that is right downtown complete with shops, restaurants, and also their rail terminal.

I was there for three days and I saw seven different ships in port from three different cruise lines. I did not notice any pollution coming from the ships, there was no loud noise or music coming from any of the ships at any time, and the passengers even exited the ship on a different level from where the shops were. The only noise that we could hear was the sounding of the horn as the ships left. The seaplanes that were constantly landing and taking off made much more noise than any of the cruise ships.

Maybe we should check with Vancouver to see how they have been so successful in working with the cruise industry.

Edward Leary
High Hammock Road, Johns Island

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South Carolina gaining more from cruise ship industry spending, report says

A new report showed an uptick in cruise industry spending in the United States last year, including added dollars for South Carolina.

The cruise ship industry spent $117.7 million on goods and services in The Palmetto State in 2012, up roughly 3.8 percent from the $113.4 million in 2011, according to a report released this week by Cruise Lines International Association. The Washington-based trade group represents cruise lines, travel agents, port authorities and destinations, according to its website.

 

The state with the largest impact from the cruise ships industry was Florida, which received $7 billion, or 36 percent of the direct expenditures generated by the cruise industry in the country.

South Carolina climbed a single ranking to 25th in 2012, receiving 0.6 percent of overall direct expenditures tied to the cruise industry, according to the report.

 

Click to view entire article

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Judge asked to rule in Charleston cruise terminal lawsuit

All sides involved in a lawsuit challenging a $35 million cruise ship terminal on the Charleston peninsula agree on one point: They want a federal judge to rule on the case to avert a costly trial.

Two preservation and environmental groups sued the Army Corps of Engineers for allowing the State Ports Authority to drive five pilings as part of the project at Union Pier Terminal.

Both sides spelled out their arguments for a favorable ruling from U.S. District Judge Richard M. Gergel in a flurry of documents filed Monday.

The case is one of several legal challenges to the SPA’s cruise business. The heated debate is pitting peninsular neighborhood associations and other groups against the local maritime industry and the city.

The tone grew sharper three years ago, after Carnival Cruise Lines moved its 2,056-passenger ship Fantasy to Union Pier, making Charleston a year-round cruise-passenger destination.

The city and SPA have said the industry is regulated properly and that pleasure ships will never be more than a niche operation.

Opposition groups want to clamp down on the big vessels, saying they’re damaging the Historic District by generating more tourists, vehicles and pollution.

The SPA is proposing to turn a vacant warehouse at the north end of Union Pier into a passenger terminal to replace its obsolete cruise facility near the end of Market Street. It’s seeking to have the lawsuit tossed.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Douglas, who represents the Corps of Engineers, argued that the pile-driving permit the agency approved last year was proper. The work is maintenance on an existing structure, he said.

The SPA said the pilings would have minimal impact.

“The five piling clusters are being added to the thousands of pilings that presently support Union Pier,” the maritime agency says in a document this week.

Attorney Blan Holman, who represents the plaintiffs, said the work isn’t maintenance because the use of the empty cargo warehouse would change. He also said the project would have consequences beyond the waterfront.

“The record overwhelmingly demonstrates that construction of a new home terminal for 10-story high, 1,000-foot-long cruise ships in the heart of the best-preserved city in the United States has at least the potential for impacts on historic properties and the human environment,” Holman says in his written argument.

He also says the Army Corps did not consider other sites for the new cruise building in North Charleston, Mount Pleasant and at the SPA’s Columbus Street Terminal.

The Preservation Society of Charleston and the S.C. Coastal Conservation League filed the lawsuit last year. They are seeking to revoke the federal permit. They also want more studies and public review.

The case could go to trial in November if Gergel declines to make a ruling.

View article here

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Just the cruise facts

You may recall the thesis we posted a few weeks ago. It is really quite interesting the very different approaches taken by two very similar and competitive cities.

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The debate over cruise ships in Charleston has been intractable. Port officials are adamant that they should be the ones to rein in their cruise business if it gets out of hand. Preservationists and neighbors argue that the city needs to use its authority to limit the number and size of cruise ships here. The city, they say, is already suffering from too many people, too much air pollution and cruise ship profiles that dwarf the city’s scenic skyline.
The two sides are locked in a legal battle.

So it might be interesting to read, in a guest column on today’s Commentary page, how Savannah decided to avoid such cruise-related strife.

And it might be interesting to consider the dispassionate perspective of a scholar on the subject.

Lauren Perez Hoogkamer recently completed her thesis for a master of science in historic preservation and a master of science in urban planning at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University.

Her topic?

Assessing and managing cruise ship tourism in historic port cities: Case Study, Charleston, South Carolina.

After extensive research in Charleston and globally, Mrs. Hoogkamer makes several recommendations for an assessment and phased management plan that would allow the city to “reap the benefits of cruise tourism while mitigating costs and protecting invaluable cultural resources.”

To date, neither the State Ports Authority nor the city of Charleston has been willing to place enforceable restrictions on the cruise business here despite repeated requests for such by residents.

Mrs. Hoogkamer suggests pausing the Union Pier project in order to conduct baseline studies and assessments of the “potential impacts on the overall environment, economy, and community, including historic and cultural resources.” She further suggests that the State Historic Preservation Office might require this assessment, given the cruise terminal’s proximity to historic Charleston.

Mrs. Hoogkamer concludes that a heritage tourism management plan should be created by the city, state, preservation professionals and the tourism/cruise industry, and that Charleston and the SPA implement appropriate taxes, fees and funds to offset management and maintenance costs.

This money could go toward preservation and environmental conservation — perhaps shoreside power to reduce air emissions from cruise ships idling at dock.

Finally, she concludes that “strict and binding passenger and ship quotas and limitations” should be implemented — something, again, that residents have asked for but the city and SPA have refused.

Mrs. Hoogkamer’s proposals mirror and expand upon some proposed locally. She does include a caveat about her research — Tim Keane, Charleston’s director of planning, preservation and sustainability, cut their interview short after 15 minutes, and both SPA representatives, Allison Skipper and Patrick Moore, canceled their meetings for last-minute engagements.

That’s too bad. It isn’t too late for the SPA and the City of Charleston to listen to reason and codify restrictions so that Charleston can profit from the cruise industry without being damaged.

But first they have to show an open mind.

Read full article here

 

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FACTS steer Savannah away from cruise folly

The recent announcement by Carnival Corporation that the company is pulling its ships from home ports in Norfolk, Baltimore and Boston this year flashes a warning light for cities with millions in taxpayer funds sunk in cruise terminals.

Coincidentally, on the day Carnival issued the press release, Savannah City Council voted unanimously against developing a cruise ship terminal. Despite the glowing picture of new revenue and jobs painted by the city’s consultants, when the citizens and council members looked at the facts, they found the problem now facing Norfolk, Baltimore and Boston: The business case for a terminal simply wasn’t there.

 

 

The facts that make cruise terminals questionable investments are not unique to Savannah. Of course, the cruise lines industry isn’t likely to talk about them. Terminals in the U.S. are built with public funds, and cruise lines love to have ports compete with each other for their business.

If you’re a cruise corporation CEO, what’s not to like? Cities, states and port authorities spend taxpayer money or borrow long-term to build terminals. Cruise companies put up no financial stake. And if their business equation shifts, the standard industry contract allows them with minimal notice to sail away.

Ironically, on the day Savannah City Council voted to kill the cruise terminal idea, Carnival Cruise Lines, the world’s largest cruise corporation, did just that. Carnival announced it was pulling its last ship from Norfolk later this year and that it will pull another ship from Baltimore in 2014. Norfolk’s under-used terminal is already saddling its taxpayers with over $1 million a year in debt service and operating costs. Baltimore was considering expanding its terminal; the port apparently needs to think again.

For Charleston, the analysis that led to Savannah’s “no” vote is worth a look. The challenges facing terminals like Charleston’s are growing. In addition to Norfolk, five similar terminals built since 2000 — Philadelphia, Mobile, Houston, San Diego and Honolulu — are either closed or operating deep in the red. It’s not just the cruise corporations’ tactics — their habit of pulling out with little notice as they follow shifts in the market — that should cause worry. Trends in the cruise industry suggest that strategic business risks for such terminals are rising as well.

Cruise corporations are building bigger ships, making those in the 2000-plus passenger range like the Carnival Fantasy a shrinking share of their fleets. Terminals that service older, smaller ships are going to compete for fewer vessels.

Marketing will focus increasingly on cities with mega-ship terminals such as Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Port Everglades. These ports already handle over 70 percent of all East coast cruise passengers; ports with smaller ships in the Southeast — Norfolk, Charleston, Mobile, and Jacksonville — together embark barely 5 percent.

As the saying goes, follow the money. For terminals like Charleston, the sliver of the market is likely to shrink in the years ahead.

There’s another trend that should concern all but the largest terminal operators. The cruise industry is shifting to Asia. It’s no secret. Its senior executives say so. Some 50 million Chinese traveled abroad in 2010; the number is projected to double by 2020.

Cruise corporations are already repositioning ships and building new terminals in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore. For smaller terminals in the U.S., the industry’s forecasts mean only one thing: Expect even more competition for ships and greater risks that they’ll sail away as cruise lines respond to the world’s fastest growing travel market abroad.

Investing in a terminal makes sense only if the purported benefits exceed the risks and costs. In Savannah, even the “best case” predictions of jobs and revenue fell far short. The city’s consultants touted 1,000 new jobs. But a close look at the numbers revealed that a terminal in full operation in 2020 would generate at best a few hundred part-time, seasonal jobs with an average wage below the 2010 poverty level. The findings dovetail with analysis of Carnival’s operations in Charleston by Miley & Associates. They suggest the need to dig deeper into real data.

For landmark cities like Charleston and Savannah, costs and risks are not just financial. Terminal operations in the heart of a city bring pollution, congestion and the displacement of destination visitors. All are effects that can damage unique historic values as well as infrastructure, not to mention the quality of life. Savannah’s consultants inexplicably downplayed the estimated additional 1,500 cars on the streets on cruise ship turn-around days and the urban health hazards from toxic ship exhaust.

As Charleston unfortunately knows, cruise lines turn a blind eye to such problems. Their behavior figured prominently in Savannah’s “no” vote.

Facts, John Adams once said, are stubborn things. For Savannah, a cruise terminal represented major public costs with highly uncertain returns. That equation may be different elsewhere, but the cruise industry’s business model, including its success in shifting major burdens onto the backs of the taxpayers, is not.

Savannah’s citizens spoke out overwhelmingly against a terminal for good reasons. Why its political leaders listened and agreed with them is worth a close look.

Click to see full article

Kent Harrington is co-founder of Be Smart Savannah, a community discussion group concerned with public policy issues. Its website is cruiseshipsinSavannah.com.

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Savannah’s Savvy Cruise Course

Savannah abandoned its plans for a cruise ship terminal this week over the very concerns that neighbors of Charleston’s port, environmentalists and preservationists have with the industry here.

The difference is that Savannah City Council studied the idea for four years, analyzed its potential and decided it wasn’t a good investment gamble.

 

 

Indeed, Savannah spent $327,000 on two reports. The more citizens learned, the louder they protested.

Like Charleston, Savannah’s important tourist industry centers on its historic district. Preservationists studied how cruises and the crowds of passengers they carry have played havoc with Venice and other historic port cities.

Conservationists warned of the health hazards of toxic emissions from ships idling at dock. Council member Carol Bell wasn’t convinced that the business case for investing in a cruise terminal was sound.

In the end, Savannah City Council voted unanimously to withhold further funding for studying the project, essentially killing it altogether.

In contrast, Charleston City Council has been supportive of Carnival Cruise Lines using Charleston as a home port for the Fantasy. Even when petitioned by citizens not to eliminate cruises but to impose some reasonable, enforceable restrictions to the size and number of cruise ships coming here, council refused.

The Charleston and South Carolina medical societies have both sounding warnings about health hazards posed by cruise ship emissions, and have advocated for shoreside power to minimize them. The S.C. State Ports Authority has rejected the idea.

The Historic Charleston Foundation paid for a comprehensive analysis of the cruise industry that found the actual financial impact of cruise passengers in Charleston is far less than projections the SPA has released.

Cruisers tend to drive here and board. They take their meals on the ship. And when they return, they tend to get in their cars and go home, rather than stay a few extra days in Charleston.

Similarly, a retired economics professor in Savannah analyzed the marketing study produced for council. He found it unrealistically rosy and noted that it lacked references or empirical support.

And a grassroots group called Be Smart Savannah has been warning people about other cities facing financial woes after being abandoned by cruise lines. This week, Carnival announced it will no longer use Norfolk as a home port. And it left Mobile after a cruise terminal was built for it.

Of the 10 people who addressed Savannah’s council on the issue, only one was supportive of the terminal, and he represented a company with a financial interest in one of three possible terminal sites.

As in Charleston, there has been controversy in Savannah over the best place for a cruise terminal.

The sister cities’ cruise-related issues are very much alike.

The major difference is that Savannah City Council studied, listened, learned and decided it was the wrong move.

 

Read the entire article here

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Savannah City Council Votes NO to Cruise Ships

This just in from our friends at Be Smart Savannah

Savannah City Council – just moments ago – voted NOT to proceed with further studies associated with bringing cruise ships to Savannah. That NO vote means that Savannah has said NO to cruise ships in their harbor.

Here is an article from this morning’s paper too: http://savannahnow.com/opinion/2013-06-26/cruise-ship-terminal-real-debate#.Ucyt0OvNcnV

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