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.

 

Jay’s Newest Post: Can a federal judge save Charleston from becoming Venice?

Can a federal judge save Charleston from becoming Venice?

In the nick of time, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel tossed the permit for the SPA’s (SC State Port’s Authority) planned $35 million cruise terminal in Charleston.  The judge ruled that the US Army Corps of Engineers did not adequately review the project’s impacts on the area, accused the Crops of “doing an end run,” and chastised the Corps’ attorneys: “You gave this permit the bum’s rush.”(1)

Noting the problems the large cruise terminal could create for the environment and the city’s historic district, among the several critical impacts that should have been carefully studied, but weren’t, Judge Gergel told the Corps’ attorneys, “You have an obligation to look at the entire project. You haven’t done what the law requires you to do by reducing a 108,000 square-foot project to 41-square feet of pilings. The process got distorted by limiting it to five piers.”

The judge noted that within the 1,200 pages of documents that there is evidence “that the terminal is being designed for larger ships than now call and could more than triple the number of cruise passengers visiting the city,” according to Bruce Smith’s Associated Press report.(2)  The judge said, “Somehow the Corps has reduced a major project to something that is less than 1 percent of the project.  I feel like I’m a nanny here trying to get you to do what Congress intends.”   The judge did not say, but we will, that the existing pier at Union Pier is 1800′, easily long enough to accommodate any of the largest ships afloat!

The SPA’s relentless “hurry up” rush to build a new cruise terminal at Union Pier near downtown was, temporarily, at least, placed “in irons” by the decision.  The judge’s formal ruling could come at any time and will likely be issued within the next 30 days.  And what happens next will likely depend on Judge Gergel’s written order.

Swimmers take venice

Swimmers take venice

(photo credit: Protesters leapt into Venice’s Giudecca Canal to block cruise ships inside the port last week  They and 1,000 supporters say that the cruise ships tower over the historic rooftops and drown the city in tourism. Photo: Getty Images (3))

We’re “not sure if that [order] will require SPA to ‘reapply’ but it will presumably require the Corps to reexamine SPA’s application by looking not just at the pilings needed for a new cruise terminal, but the cruise terminal itself,” Blan Holman, managing attorney of the Charleston office for the Southern Environmental Law Center informed this blog.  “That is, the Corps would need to consider the impacts of building a new cruise terminal, and, as well, options for reducing or avoiding those impacts.  Shore power, satellite parking, limits on ship size and number, alternative [terminal] locations — these come to mind,” adding, “And it’s possible that the Corps and the SPA will appeal that ruling…”   Holman noted that there are two other lawsuits pending, “One is a challenge to DHEC’s approvals for the terminal; that matter is currently pending before the SC Administrative Law Court (ALC).”  And “The third piece of litigation is the lawsuit filed by several neighborhood associations, the Preservation Society, and the Conservation League against Carnival for violating zoning ordinances, permitting requirements and creating a nuisance.”

The importance of the judge’s written order can’t be overstated.  The impacts of cruise tourism, as the severely damaged city of Venice has found out, are varied and immense.  Last Saturday, when this Venice picture was snapped, unusual circumstances had allowed 12 cruise ships to head past St. Mark’s Square in one day!  The main problem in Venice, as a speaker informed the Preservation Society’s cruise conference last year, is that ships are permitted to dock adjacent to the historic city, are creating incredible, irreversible impacts to the city’s historic foundations, culture, civil structure, and local populace–over half of whom have left the city in the past three decades.  The only solution now, said the expert, is to move the port across to the mainland, away from the city; that would dramatically reduce the impacts.  That could be a solution in Charleston, too, as the Corps was required to study alternate locations for the terminal–and never did.

Judge Gergel’s decision is good news for Charleston.  “We welcome this ruling because it clarifies the obligation the SPA has to protect the environment and the historic character of the city.  We hope this will open the door for more productive discussions about how to best deal with cruise traffic in Charleston,” Dana Beach, executive director of the Coastal Conservation League, told this blog.

We welcome it, too.  And we hope it forces the SPA and the city to look beyond their immediate interests and agendas and into the future.  Because that future will be crammed with ever-growing numbers of ever-larger cruise ships carrying millions more passengers every single year.(4)   Once upon a time, cruise ships weren’t a problem in Venice.  Now they are, and any solution will cost hundreds of billions–and come too late to save Venice.

–Jay, 24 Sept 13

#   #    #

1)  Judge docks Charleston Cruise Terminal Study – Post and Courier
http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20130912/PC05/130919772

2)  Judge tosses federal permit for SC cruise terminal – Bruce Smith/AP
http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/09/12/3622606/judge-tosses-federal-permit-for.html

3)  Protesters dive into Venice canal to protest cruise ships – The Telegraph (UK)
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/10326417/Protesters-dive-into-Venice-canal-to-block-cruise-ships.html

4)  Growth of the Cruise line industry – Cruise Market Watch
http://www.cruisemarketwatch.com/growth/

 

Written by jwilliams
The Charleston Cruise Control Blog, written by Jay Williams, Jr. and published periodically since May, 2011, consists of opinions and commentary about cruise ship tourism. Although Jay is a C4 Advisory Board member and a board member of the Charlestowne Neighborhood Assn., the opinions he expresses are his alone; they are not intended to represent C4 or any other organization or any member of any organization. Mr. Williams is an independent blogger/writer. These blogs provide C4 website visitors an additional information source regarding the cruise terminal debates and discussions in Charleston.

 

Jay’s Latest Blog

BULLETIN:

Federal U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel tossed out the federal permit that was required to build the SPA’s (SC State Ports Authority) proposed new cruise terminal at Union Pier near downtown Charleston.(1)

After reviewing hundreds of pages of briefs and documents and hearing two hours of oral testimony, the judge ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not adequately review all the necessary criteria before issuing the permit and that its analysis was flawed by limiting it to installing the pilings. This marks a huge victory for conservationists and preservationists who had argued that the Corps did not take into consideration any of the impacts that a new terminal would have on the environment, the city or the historic districts before issuing its now jettisoned permit. The Corps and the SPA had argued that the installation of five new clusters of pilings underneath a building that was already used for maritime purposes would have little impact, but neighborhood, civic, and preservations groups, media outlets and this blog successfully argued that the permitting process itself had mandated a wider review.

“The scope of the analysis was done wrong,” Judge Gergel said in court today. This is one of three lawsuits filed against the cruise terminal that many opponents have charged will bring more unregulated tourists, traffic, congestion, noise and pollution into an area that could be permanently damaged as a result.(2) The SPA, the state legislature, and the city have all refused to put any restrictions on the rapidly growing cruise industry or its operations in Charleston.

–Jay, 12 Sept 13

1) Judge tosses federal permit for $35 million cruise terminal – Associated Press
http://www.live5news.com/story/23411575/sc-cruise-lawsuit-being-heard-in-federal-court

2) Back to drawing board for Army Corps… – Post and Courier
http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20130912/PC05/130919772/federal-judge-orders-more-review-in-cruise-terminal-permit

 

Written by jwilliams
The Charleston Cruise Control Blog, written by Jay Williams, Jr. and published periodically since May, 2011, consists of opinions and commentary about cruise ship tourism. Although Jay is a C4 Advisory Board member and a board member of the Charlestowne Neighborhood Assn., the opinions he expresses are his alone; they are not intended to represent C4 or any other organization or any member of any organization. Mr. Williams is an independent blogger/writer. These blogs provide C4 website visitors an additional information source regarding the cruise terminal debates and discussions in Charleston.

Judge schedules arguments on Charleston cruise case for September

CHARLESTON, S.C. — A federal judge wants to hear attorneys argue why a challenge to a $35 million South Carolina cruise terminal should be settled without a trial.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel has scheduled arguments for Sept. 12 in the ongoing dispute over a federal permit for the terminal proposed for the Charleston waterfront.

 

The pilings are needed to transform an old warehouse into a new cruise terminal for the city’s expanded cruise industry.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs said in court documents that allowing the warehouse to be used for a cruise terminal is a different and more extensive use than permitted in the past so. They said that means more review is needed under the law. They want the judge to void the permit and block the Corps from allowing any construction without more extensive studies.

Attorneys for the Corps have said the permit is not for a terminal, but only for installing five clusters of pilings beneath a structure that already is permitted for maritime uses.

Both sides have asked Gergel to rule in their favor without trial.

The judge has asked attorneys for both sides to come to next month’s hearing prepared to discuss the issues that would be taken up later if he rules a full trial is needed. A November court date has tentatively been set if the case goes to trial.

The case is one of three legal challenges to the terminal and the city’s expanded cruise industry.

A case before the state Supreme Court contends the cruises are a public nuisance and violate city zoning ordinances. Preservation and environmental groups have sued Carnival Cruise Lines seeking to block cruise operations and have the court declare it illegal to build the terminal.

The third case challenges a state permit issued for the pilings. That goes before a state administrative law judge early next year.

Three years ago, Carnival Cruise Lines permanently based its 2,056-passenger liner Fantasy in Charleston, giving the city a year-round cruise industry. Before that, cruise lines made port calls, but no ships were based in the city.

 

BY BRUCE SMITH  Associated Press

Federal judge sets arguments on challenge to Charleston cruise terminal

Associated Press

Bruce Smith, The Associated Press August 16, 2013 12:43 PM

CHARLESTON, S.C. – A federal judge wants to hear attorneys argue why a challenge to a $35 million South Carolina cruise terminal should be settled without a trial.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel has scheduled arguments for Sept. 12 in the ongoing dispute over a federal permit for the terminal proposed for the Charleston waterfront.

Environmental and neighbourhood groups have sued. They say the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should have more extensively studied the impact on the environment and the city’s historic district before issuing a permit allowing the South Carolina State Ports Authority to put additional pilings under a wharf.

The pilings are needed to transform an old warehouse into a new cruise terminal for the city’s expanded cruise industry.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs said in court documents that allowing the warehouse to be used for a cruise terminal is a different and more extensive use than permitted in the past so. They said that means more review is needed under the law. They want the judge to void the permit and block the Corps from allowing any construction without more extensive studies.

Attorneys for the Corps have said the permit is not for a terminal, but only for installing five clusters of pilings beneath a structure that already is permitted for maritime uses.

Both sides have asked Gergel to rule in their favour without trial.

The judge has asked attorneys for both sides to come to next month’s hearing prepared to discuss the issues that would be taken up later if he rules a full trial is needed. A November court date has tentatively been set if the case goes to trial.

The case is one of three legal challenges to the terminal and the city’s expanded cruise industry.

A case before the state Supreme Court contends the cruises are a public nuisance and violate city zoning ordinances. Preservation and environmental groups have sued Carnival Cruise Lines seeking to block cruise operations and have the court declare it illegal to build the terminal.

The third case challenges a state permit issued for the pilings. That goes before a state administrative law judge early next year.

Three years ago, Carnival Cruise Lines permanently based its 2,056-passenger liner Fantasy in Charleston, giving the city a year-round cruise industry. Before that, cruise lines made port calls, but no ships were based in the city.

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.

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

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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