Italy to Ban Large Cruise Ships from Venice


The known “skyscrapers of the sea” will be banned from Venice’s historic center after the Italian government said that it’s ready to resolve the bitterly divisive issue that provoked an international campaign.

The government is planning to create an alternative route for the massive ships.

Those massive ships has already provoked many environmentalists and residents concerned about its impact on the Venice’s fragile environment.

Cruise ships currently pass within 1,000 feet of Venice’s St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco), giving passengers spectacular views.

Last year the port of Venice said that is going to ban liners of more than 96,000 tonnes but the decree was overturned by a regional tribunal.

Recently British stars Sir Michael Caine and Julie Christie joined dozens of celebrities who signed a petition in order to ban the massive cruise ships from Venice.

Now the government has restored the ban which will block all cruise ships exceeding 96,000 tonnes from Saint Mark’s basin and the Giudecca Canal from 2015 and also many visits by smaller ships of no more than 40,000 tonnes.

Give us ‘standing’ on cruise ships


When a cruise ship the size of a skyscraper pulls into town and takes on or disgorges some 3,000 passengers, it’s hard to argue that has no effect on the quality of life in Charleston’s historic downtown. Of course it does. But so far, residents have been denied legal “standing” in litigation related to the expansion of the cruise industry.

That could and should change after the South Carolina Supreme Court considers the legal question on June 11. The cruise ship controversy has surfaced again with the recent arrival of the larger Carnival Cruise Line ship Sunshine, now based in Charleston.

The overarching legal question is whether citizens have a right to challenge governmental decisions that affect them. In this discrete case, it’s whether Charlestonians affected by pollution, traffic and other ills related to cruise ships have a legal right to challenge a permit issued by the Department of Health of Environmental Control for a new cruise terminal.

So far, administrative law courts have said “no.” That’s presumably a legally defensible position, but it’s also downright un-American insomuch that it saps the life out of the fundamental constitutional right “to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

“We will ask the Supreme Court to restore those rights, which are vital to keep the government in check and accountable to citizens across South Carolina,” plaintiffs attorney Blan Holman of Southern Environmental Law Center told The Post and Courier last summer when the high court agreed to hear the case.

Should the court rule in favor of the plaintiffs, the legal tug of war over the permitting of a new cruise terminal would return to an administrative law court where the plaintiffs, including environmental, historic preservation and neighborhood groups, would at least have their concerns heard.

As it is, the Sunshine will continue to use the cruise terminal next to where the new terminal would be built, pending the outcome of the long-running litigation. And the State Ports Authority is sticking to its voluntary cap of 104 port calls per year.

But it’s clear that Charleston is an attractive port of call for the expanding cruise industry, and the Supreme Court decision will be vital to the people of Charleston in balancing their interests against those of the cruise industry, as well as the State Ports Authority and other entities, far into the future.

If the justices are convinced that state law does not give them the option of allowing this case to proceed, they need to make that clear in their ruling so the Legislature can remedy the problem. It is one thing to be knocked down, but it’s an entirely different matter to be ignored and denied legal standing in a case that has everything to do with citizens having a say in how their quality of life is shaped.

Carnival Sunshine’s arrival in Charleston raises concern from residents

CLICK TO VIEW CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — A new cruise ship that carries one thousand more passengers per trip than it’s predecessor just moved into Charleston harbor.

The arrival of Carnival Sunshine renews the debate over the cruise industry in the Lowcountry.

Since 2010, Carnival has run the only year-round cruise operation in Charleston. Now, it’s doing even more business here with the introduction of a much bigger ship.

Starting this month, Carnival Sunshine replaces Ecstasy. Its first voyage out of Charleston took place on Saturday.

“Excited, very excited,” says Lee Shanks, a cruise passenger from New York.

“We’re gonna drink a lot of beer, that’s all I know,” said Dustin Holloway, who came from North Carolina to ride the cruise.

Yvonndria Harris and Dee Shelton from Tennessee say they’re excited for their cruise. “We’re really happy today. We’re ready to get going.”

Since 2017, Carnival Ships have been on probation by the federal government, after the company admitted to breaking environmental law.

According to US District Court documents below, a court-appointed monitor found Carnival violated the probation terms with quote “record falsification and numerous instances of prohibited discharge” – that includes multiple violations in Charleston waters.

Originally, Carnival invited ABC News 4 for a tour of the new ship. Two weeks later, they disinvited our reporter, explaining it would be very busy at the pier. Turns out, they were right.

Robin Holley from Myrtle Beach says she is excited about Carnival’s new ship, “we are happy to have the Sunshine here in Charleston.”

But residents who live nearby are not so happy about the larger ship that’s scheduled to sail out of Charleston 40 more times this year.

“Lots of extra traffic flows in for passengers to come and board the ship, and there’s additional pollution from many hundreds of cars coming in,” says local resident Tommie Robertson.

Environmentalists like Caroline Bradner with the SC Coastal Conservation League say cruise ship fuel emissions and waste discharge are a growing concern for the Charleston-area.

“What they’re emitting actually is equivalent to thousands of 18-wheelers, right here in this historic area of the peninsula in Charleston,” Bradner said. “They can discharge untreated grey water, macerated garbage, and sewage three miles from our shore, so just within sight of our harbor.”

Mayor Riley brought Carnival to the Holy City. ABC News 4 asked Mayor Tecklenburg about the Sunshine, who says he’s concerned that the city can’t regulate its cruise ship policies and procedures because the port is a state government entity.

Longtime Charleston City Councilman Mike Seekings is highly critical of the new ship in our port.

“Whenever you add another burden of 1000 cars four times a week, which is exactly what we think this is doing or maybe more, it’s just increasing our congestion,” Seekings says. “And most importantly, it’s increasing the burden on the people who live here in terms of livability, and the people who live here in terms of the cost of running a city.”

Seekings and Mayor Tecklenburg say the state ports authority should require a landing tax on cruise operators to give back to the city.

“Right now, it’s just economically inequitable,” Seekings says. “They’re getting all the benefit, and we in the City of Charleston are accepting all of the burden.”

The ports authority didn’t return our request for comment on a tax, but it did defend Carnival’s new ship in a statement:

Cruise operations are a relatively small but important part of maritime commerce and diversity of the port’s business segments. Carnival’s decision to home-port the Sunshine in Charleston is an affirmation of their success and commitment to operations here.

According to Carnival, cruise industry operators generate $131 million in direct expenditures, and account for nearly 2,400 jobs and $93 million in wages in South Carolina each year.

A lawsuit to block the state ports authority from building a much larger cruise ship terminal at union pier goes to the South Carolina Supreme Court on June 11.

In a statement to ABC News 4, a Carnival spokesman writes:

We worked together with the port of Charleston team for over a year to develop an operating plan in Charleston that would minimize the impact on local infrastructure, and carnival sunshine is equipped with state of the art emission technology that allows the ship to fully comply with all current regulations.

A cruise ship’s emissions are the same as 1 million cars: report

A luxury cruise vacation may sound like a perfect dream holiday, but a German environmental organization says that in terms of environmental impact, the industry is an absolute nightmare.

​Nabu has just released its annual report on cruise ship pollution. It looked at dozens of vessels travelling in Europe, and decided not to recommend any of them. 

Dietmar Oeliger is one of the authors and head of transport policy at Nabu. He spoke with As it Happens host Carol Off from Berlin. Here is part of their conversation. 

Were there really no cruise ships that you looked at that you could recommend?

Unfortunately not. We found out that pollution from the cruise ship industry is still massive, even despite that they claim newer vessels are clean and green. We made measurements at quite a few cruise lines, and it proves that nearly all of them, their attitude to the environment is still poor.

Why are they so bad for the environment?

All of them run on the dirtiest fuel you can imagine. It’s heavy fuel oil, it’s quite toxic. It’s a residual of the petrol industry, and it contains a lot of dirty stuff.

The cruise companies know what they are doing, and they know about the problems. But still, they order new ships and don’t install emission abatement systems.

And on top of that, nearly all of the cruise ships don’t have a catalyst or a particulate filter, [like] trucks and cars. That, altogether, sums up to really poor environmental situations.

The report says that a mid-sized cruise ship can use as much as 150 tonnes of fuel each day, which emits as much particulate as one million cars. Is that right?

That’s correct. And the reason for this is that their engines run 24/7. Even if they’re in the ports, they have to keep running their engines, because it’s not only a transport mode, it’s a hotel facility. They have a spa on board, restaurants … and that needs a lot of energy — more or less the same energy a mid-sized city needs.

What does it mean for those who are actually cruising around on the boats themselves?

Unfortunately, we were not allowed as an organization to have measurements on board. Therefore, we helped two major TV stations from Germany and one from France to go undercover on board and take measurements with our help. It showed that the amount of emissions that passengers breathe on board is more than twenty times higher than on a main road with a lot of pollution. 

You write in the report that the cruise ship companies “show contempt for their customers.” What do you mean by that?

The cruise companies know what they are doing. And they know about the problems that result from their emissions.But, still, they order new ships and don’t install emission abatement systems on their ships. Most of the newest ships, that cost about a billion dollars, they don’t even have an emission abatement system that would cost about a million. I would say this is really irresponsible. 

This is a competitive industry, they’re all cutting costs where they can. So is it really the companies themselves that should be making these changes, or should this be legislated?

Of course, legislation would be the most effective way. But legislation is made by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which is located in London. It’s an organization where countries like Liberia, Panama or Greece have a strong position.

And that is because most of the ships are flagged in these states. These countries are very often not interested in environmental regulation and strong enforcement. And that’s why we say we can’t wait for IMO. We have to be much faster. 

Would you recommend to people not to take cruises?

Well, I wouldn’t go on a cruise ship for many reasons. I would not say that people shouldn’t go. If it’s a once-in-a-lifetime dream for them, if they saved a lot of money to do it, that’s fine for me. But if you have the choice to take this or that ship, then take one that is doing quite well in terms of environmental regulation.

Disappointing photos show what Venice looks like in real life, from extreme overcrowding and devastating floods to pollution from cruise ships

by Katie Warren

Venice goes by many nicknames, “The Floating City,” “The City of Bridges,” and “The City of Canals” among them.

Whatever you call it, it’s one of the most popular destinations in Italy, with between 26 million and 30 million people visiting per year.

But despite its beauty, the city suffers from massive overcrowding, devastating floods, and pollution from the massive cruise ships that pass through every day.

While many people may still consider a trip to Venice worthwhile, these disappointing photos show the reality of the less glamorous aspects of the city.

Click to read full story

Can neighbors challenge new Charleston cruise terminal permit? SC Supreme Court to decide

The South Carolina State Supreme Court will determine whether neighbors living near the city’s Union Pier neighborhood have the right to challenge state pollution permits issued for a large new cruise ship terminal proposed for historic downtown Charleston.

The Court today provided notice that it will review an appellate court decision that declared neighbors did not have the right or the standing to question the legality of pollution permits.

The permits would authorize construction of a 20-acre cruise terminal complex in downtown Charleston next to a National Historic Landmark District.

The terminal would be designed to handle much larger vessels than have previously operated out of Charleston’s historic area.

“This is a case about neighbors across South Carolina having the right to challenge unlawful permits that would authorize major polluting activities right next door,” said Blan Holman, managing attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center’ Charleston Office.

“The lower courts said families and businesses have no right to question permits for a large polluting facility or to hold the government accountable. We believe the neighbors do have that right, and we are heartened that the South Carolina Supreme Court has agreed to consider this case.”

For years, neighbors, preservationists, and conservationists have asked for measures to minimize pollution and traffic. When the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control issued permits for the project without those measures, the groups sought review in the state Administrative Law Court.

But that court and the S.C. Court of Appeals found that neighboring citizens lacked standing to have the permits reviewed because they did not qualify as “affected persons.”

In 2013, in a separate but related case challenging federal permits, a federal court reached the opposite conclusion on standing. The court eventually threw out the federal permit as unlawful.

Before state and federal officials, the local groups put forth options they say could reduce pollution, such as plug-in power used in other ports to reduce the soot emitted by cruise ships idling in port. When the state permit was issued without considering those options, they challenged it as unlawful.

Holman said he was surprised the matter had gone on for long as it has, given the economic value of the Charleston historic district and available options used by other ports to reduce pollution and traffic.

“At the end of the day, we need to get to a solution that balances a cruise operation and the people, resources, and businesses around it,” said Holman. “Stripping the rights of people across South Carolina to question unlawful pollution permits is not the way to get there.”

SELC and other attorneys represent the Preservation Society of Charleston, the Historic Charleston Foundation, the Historic Ansonborough Neighborhood Association, the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, the Charleston Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation and Charleston Communities for Cruise Control.

Editorial: S.C. Supreme Court decision bigger than cruise ships

Click to view article

The state Supreme Court’s decision to take up a local lawsuit challenging a permit for a new and expanded cruise ship terminal is a welcome development not just for the plaintiffs but for any individual or organization seeking relief from a governmental decision.

At issue is the legal “standing” to challenge a ruling or action. Without it, judges dismiss cases before ever examining the underlying complaints, which in this case concern pollution and traffic generated by cruise ships.

To be granted standing, plaintiffs typically have to demonstrate they have suffered direct harm by the action in question. And so far, claims that exhaust fumes have caused sore throats or aggravated respiratory conditions have been deemed insufficient. But if Charlestonians and their advocates don’t have a say in how in their environment is shaped, who does?

In the cruise ship case, the plaintiffs, including neighborhood, historic preservation and environmental groups, are challenging a 2012 permit the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) issued to the State Ports Authority to rehabilitate a wharf for a new terminal adjacent the existing one at the foot of Market Street.

In the latest go-around, the State Court of Appeals ruled that the plaintiffs failed to show they would suffer any direct harm and “presented only speculative claims that the proposed passenger terminal would adversely affect their property values and businesses.”

But shouldn’t anyone have a right to ask a court to review a decision that affects them? We think so, and so does attorney Blan Holman, who is representing the plaintiffs.

“We will ask the Supreme Court to restore those rights, which are vital to keeping the government in check and accountable to citizens across South Carolina,” he told The Post and Courier recently.

In 2013 in federal court, where rules about establishing standing differ slightly, a judge rejected an Army Corps of Engineers permit issued for the project, saying the agency focused only on replacing some pilings under the wharf and failed to consider the environmental impact the new terminal would have on the historic neighborhood surrounding it.

So far, it’s unclear when the state Supreme Court will take up the long-running case against DHEC, but it’s worth noting that Carnival Cruise Line plans to replace its Charleston-based ship Ecstasy with the slightly larger Sunshine in May.

For the time being, the State Ports Authority is sticking to its self-imposed cap of 104 port calls per year. But the cruise industry continues to expand, and the agency will no doubt come under increased pressure to lift that cap if the terminal project is allowed to move forward.

Putting arguments for or against cruise ships aside, we hope and trust the state’s highest court will decide that, indeed, citizens do have a right to their day in court when it comes to governmental decisions affecting the environment — truly a shared asset in which we are all stakeholders.

SC Supreme Court to weigh in on Charleston cruise ship terminal debate

SC Supreme Court to weigh in on Charleston cruise ship terminal debate

A case that will help decide whether the State Ports Authority builds a new terminal for cruise ships near downtown Charleston is headed to the state’s Supreme Court.

South Carolina’s top court agreed on Tuesday to hear an appeal of a lower court’s ruling that would have let the project move forward. The state Court of Appeals ruled in November that environmental and historic preservation groups don’t have a legal right to stop state regulators from issuing a permit that would allow construction of a new terminal.

“This is good news for neighbors seeking to ensure that traffic and pollution from thousands of vehicles using a large terminal are minimized as the law requires,” said Blan Holman, a lawyer with the Southern Environmental Law Center, which is representing groups opposed to the project.

“The lower courts said these families and businesses had no right to question unlawful (regulatory) approvals,” he said. “We will ask the Supreme Court to restore those rights, which are vital to keeping government in check and accountable to citizens across South Carolina.”

Erin Dhand, spokeswoman for the ports authority, said the agency has no comment on the Supreme Court’s decision.

The SPA has been trying for years to build a $43 million terminal for cruise passengers on the north end of Union Pier. While the authority says the new site would improve traffic flow, opponents say the facility — three times larger than the existing building near the end of Market Street — would add to congestion by bringing 1,600 cars and dozens of trucks, buses and taxis to the area on a regular basis.

The appeals court, in its November ruling, said opponents did not provide any evidence that they would suffer direct harm from a new terminal. Instead, they “presented only speculative claims that the proposed passenger terminal would adversely affect their property values and businesses,” the ruling stated.

The case centers around a permit the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control issued in 2012 allowing the SPA to place five additional clusters of support pilings beneath an existing warehouse. That’s where the maritime agency wants to build a new terminal, replacing a nearby 1970s-era building used mostly by Carnival Cruise Line.

Terminal opponents say DHEC issued the permit without completing an analysis of the effects on nearby neighborhoods or considering alternative locations. The S.C. Administrative Law Court said in 2014 the opponents don’t have a right to challenge the permit, setting up the appeal.

The SPA also needs a federal permit to proceed with the project. The Army Corps of Engineers is reviewing an application for that permit but has not set a timetable for its decision. A previous permit application was tossed out by a federal judge in 2013 because the proposal did not consider the terminal’s impact on the city’s Historic District.

Opponents of the Union Pier proposal say they would prefer a new terminal is built farther from the city’s historic areas, such as at Veterans Terminal in North Charleston. They also advocate the use of shore power — port-side electric plug-ins for ships while they are docked to reduce emissions.

“At the end of the day, we need to get to a solution that balances a cruise operations and the people, resources and businesses around it,” Holman said. “Stripping the rights of people across South Carolina to question unlawful pollution permits is not the way to get there.′


Europe Made Billions from Tourists. Now It’s Turning Them Away

Charleston needs to learn from Europe!

By Lisa Abend/Venice

July 26, 2018

In Giovanni Bonazzon’s paintings, Venice is a vision of serenity. Bridges arch gracefully over rippling canals, sunlight bounces off flower-filled balconies, and not a single human mars the tranquility.

Bonazzon’s daily vista is not as tranquil, however. An artist who paints and sells watercolors from an easel set up near San Marco Square, he has a ringside seat to the selfie-posing, ice-cream-licking hordes who roil their way daily toward the Doge’s Palace, and he readily agrees that tourism is killing his hometown.

Yet when he heard that Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro had, in the run-up to a busy weekend at the beginning of May, installed checkpoints intended to block arriving visitors from especially crowded thoroughfares (while allowing locals through), Bonazzon was dismayed. “Yes, they should control the tourists,” he says. “But they shouldn’t close Venice. We’re a city, not a theme park.”

That’s a refrain echoing in a growing number of European cities. The neoclassical gems that once made up the grand tour have been stops on package tours since the 19th century. But it’s only over the past decade or so that the number of travelers to these and other must-see destinations risks subsuming the places. Around 87 million tourists visited France in 2017, breaking records; 58.3 million went to Italy; and even the tiny Netherlands received 17.9 million visitors.

It’s happening nearly everywhere. Asia experienced a 9% increase in international visitors in 2016, and in Latin America the contribution of tourism to GDP is expected to rise by 3.4% this year. Even a devastating hurricane season couldn’t halt arrivals in the Caribbean, where tourism grew 1.7% in 2017. (The U.S., on the other hand, has seen foreign tourism drop, partly because of a strong dollar.)

But Europe is bearing the brunt. Of the 1.3 billion international arrivals counted by the U.N. worldwide last year, 51% were in Europe–an 8% increase over the year before. Americans, in particular, seem drawn to the perceived glamour and sophistication of the Old Continent (as well as the increased spending power of a strong currency). More than 15.7 million U.S. tourists crossed the Atlantic in 2017, a 16% jump in the space of a year.

With tourism in 2018 expected to surpass previous records, frustration in Europe is growing. This past spring witnessed antitourism demonstrations in many cities throughout Europe. On July 14, demonstrators in Mallorca, Spain, conducting a “summer of action” greeted passengers at the airport with signs reading tourism kills Mallorca.

In the spring, Venice introduced temporary checkpoints to prevent day trippers from crowding especially busy areas
In the spring, Venice introduced temporary checkpoints to prevent day trippers from crowding especially busy areas
Marco Zorzanello for TIME

Now, local governments are trying to curb or at least channel the surges that clog streets, diminish housing supplies, pollute waters, turn markets and monuments into no-go zones, and generally make life miserable for residents. Yet almost all of them are learning that it can be far more difficult to stem the tourist hordes than it was to attract them in the first place.

The reasons for this modern explosion in tourism are nearly as numerous as the guys selling selfie sticks in Piazza Navona. Low-cost airlines like easyJet, Ryanair and Vueling expanded dramatically in the 2000s, with competitive ticket prices driving up passenger numbers. From 2008 to 2016, the cruise-ship industry in Europe exploded, growing by 49%. Airbnb, which launched in 2008, made accommodations less expensive. Rising prosperity in countries like China and India has turned their burgeoning middle classes into avid travelers. Even climate change plays a role, as warmer temperatures extend summer seasons and open up previously inaccessible areas.

But the cities and local governments here also share responsibility for the boom, having attempted to stimulate tourism to raise money. In the decade since the financial crisis began, tourism has come to be seen by European countries as an economic lifesaver. The industry generated $321 billion for the E.U. in 2016 and now employs 12 million people. Governments in cities like Barcelona spent heavily to attract tourist dollars. “For decades, the government here was using tons of public money to attract cruise lines, new hotels, new airlines,” says Daniel Pardo, a member of the city’s Neighborhood Assembly for Sustainable Tourism. “But they didn’t think about the repercussions.”

Over the past few years, Barcelona has begun taking action to improve tourist behavior, like fining visitors who walk around the city center in their bathing suits. The current mayor, Ada Colau, has dramatically intensified that action. In January 2017, her government prohibited the construction of new hotels in the city center and prevents their replacement when old ones close. Cruise ships that stop for the day may struggle to get docking licenses, as the city prioritizes those that begin or end their journey in Barcelona. Tour groups can now visit the Boquería market only at certain times, and the city is considering measures to ensure locals can still buy raw ingredients there–and not just smoothies and paper cones of ham.

About 55,000 tourists visit Venice every day
About 55,000 tourists visit Venice every day
Marco Zorzanello for TIME

Other places are also turning to the law to reduce the number of globetrotters. Ever since its medieval center stood in for King’s Landing on Game of Thrones, the walled Croatian city of Dubrovnik has been overwhelmed by fans of the HBO series. In 2017, Dubrovnik limited the number of daily visitors to 8,000; its new mayor now seeks to halve that amount. Amsterdam, whose infamous drug culture and picturesque canals drew at least 6 million foreign visitors to the city in 2016, has adopted a carrot-and-stick approach. The Dutch capital has introduced fines for rowdy behavior and banned the mobile bars known as “beer bikes,” while simultaneously attempting to lure visitors to less congested sites like Zandvoort, a coastal town 17 miles from the city center that has been rebranded Amsterdam Beach, through apps and messaging systems.

The city has also raised its tourist tax to 6%, joining several other cities and some countries that aim to control visitor numbers with higher levies. At the start of 2018, Greece imposed its first tourist tax, which ranges from roughly 50 cents a night to four euros. In Iceland, which receives nearly seven times as many visitors as it has residents, lawmakers will consider a tax this fall on tourists coming from outside of Europe.

Yet even in liberal Europe, not every government is willing to raise taxes. Authorities in the Lofoten Islands in northern Norway beseeched the government to raise levies after more than a million tourists visited in 2017, thanks in part to the movie Frozen. The 25,000 inhabitants found their single main road and its sparse facilities completely overwhelmed.

When Norway said no to higher taxes, the locals were forced to take matters into their own hands. “We’ve organized community volunteers to build trails and haul trash,” says Flakstad Mayor Hans Fredrik Sordal. “In summer, we’re opening the school toilets to the public. And we’re asking tourists for volunteer contributions.”

For locals in these places, anger at the ever-expanding rates of tourism can be placated by the money there is to be made out of catering to them. The advent of Airbnb has created a revenue stream for city-center residents with spare bedrooms and second properties. The company sees itself as an answer to tourism overcrowding rather than a net contributor. “We are convinced our community can be a solution to mass tourism,” wrote company founder Nathan Blecharczyk in a May report, “and that it enables sustainable growth that benefits everyone.”

Yet some people benefit more than others. Canny investors buy up residential properties in desirable locations and convert them into tourist apartments, provoking housing shortages and pushing up prices. Again, some cities have taken action. Copenhagen, for example, has limited the number of days per year that owners can rent out their residences. Barcelona has targeted Airbnb itself, forcing it to share data about owners and remove listings for unlicensed apartments. It has also launched a website where visitors can check if a potential apartment is legally registered. But speculators are hard to deter, especially as Airbnb doesn’t require owners to reside in housing that is rented through the site.

Balancing the needs of locals with the demands of tourists is a challenge across Europe but perhaps nowhere more so than in Venice, where more than 20 million tourists crowd the piazzas and canals every year. When the city’s mayor attempted to install checkpoints to potentially shut main thoroughfares to tourists, the initiative was greeted by protests from locals, who saw the surprise measure as an attempt to close the city. “We tried to do something for the city, for the residents,” laments Paola Mar, Venice’s deputy mayor for tourism. “This measure was for them, for their safety. But in Italy, you’re only good if you do nothing.”

Venice has not done nothing. The local government has restricted the construction of new hotels and takeout restaurants, and created a fast lane for residents on public transport. It has a plan in place to ease congestion by diverting foot and boat traffic on exceptionally crowded days this summer, and now employs 22 stewards in vests that read #EnjoyRespectVenezia to prevent tourists sitting on monuments, jumping in the canal, or otherwise misbehaving.

Barcelona now limits tour-group access to the Boquería market
Barcelona now limits tour-group access to the Boquería market
Paolo Verzone—Agence Vu for TIME

But imposing too many restrictions risks alienating the residents who depend on access to tourist dollars; across the E.U., 1 in 10 nonfinancial enterprises now serves the industry. In Venice, a proposal to ticket the entrance to San Marco Square has run into resistance from shopkeepers. And the subject of restricting cruise-ship access is a touchy one. “You have to know, 5,000 people work with the cruise ships,” says Mar, who notes that the city council has asked the government to move large ships from the San Marco basin. “If we want people to stay in Venice, they have to have jobs.”

And therein lies a hint of what is at stake. Venice has been losing residents for decades, dropping from nearly 175,000 in 1951 to around 55,000 now. The city seems close to uninhabitable in certain areas–its streets too crowded to stroll down, its hardware shops and dentist offices replaced by souvenir stalls. The same cycle threatens Barcelona and Florence; tourism drives locals out of the center, which then leaves even more spaces to be colonized by restaurants and shops that cater to tourists. Annelies van der Vegt understands the sentiment. A musician, she lives in the center of Amsterdam but is tired of finding entire tour groups on her doorstep, gaping at her 17th century house. “I’m thinking of moving to Norway,” she says.

When the residents leave and the visitors take over, what is left behind can lose some of its charm. One day in May, Susana Alzate and Daniel Tobón from Colombia waited on Venice’s Rialto Bridge as first a gaggle of Israeli Orthodox Jews, then a tide of Indian Sufis jostled by. Finally, the couple found a slot on the railing, struck a pose and shot their Instagram story. “It’s beautiful,” said Alzate as she gazed out on the Grand Canal. “But I would never come back. Too many tourists.”

This appears in the August 06, 2018 issue of TIME.

It’s time for the SPA to sell Union Pier

By Jay Williams, Jr.

As Venice, Italy plans a multi-billion dollar mainland cruise terminal in response to cruise ship damage to the historic island city, the South Carolina State Ports Authority (SPA) is fixated on opening a new cruise terminal as close as possible to Charleston’s Historic District.

As Venetian officials voted to divert large cruise ships weighing over 96,000 tons away from St. Mark’s Square, the Grand Canal and the Ducal Palace, Carnival Cruise Lines announced that the 103,000 ton Carnival Sunshine will be home-ported near the end of Market Street.

As “Venice has faced an onslaught of tourism that has challenged the city’s character, clogged its narrow waterways and chased its local population away,” reports The New York Times, “There emerged no clearer symbol for the invasion of tourists than the cruise ships drifting, lunar-like, through the lagoon. They eclipsed church towers, famous views and, occasionally, the sun.”

Ironically, it’s the Sunshine, the largest Carnival ship ever home-ported here, that will block our sun and views. She accommodates 3,002 passengers, 50 percent more than the Ecstasy she’ll replace.

Charleston is sailing backwards, refusing to grasp the enormous damage the worldwide cruise industry has inflicted on historic port cities. We must confront the issue of a downtown cruise terminal head on.

Since 2011, citizens opposing the Union Pier site have proposed an elementary solution: Locate the new cruise terminal away from historic downtown. Potential sites include the Columbus Street Terminal, now mostly used as a parking lot and a shipping site for BMWs and the 110-acre Veterans Terminal at the old Navy base, not used for much of anything, yet near highways and able to handle cruise traffic without creating congestion.

Predictably, the SPA has repulsed every suggestion offered to mitigate the impacts of a cruise terminal downtown, including shore power and that includes moving it.

Now there’s a new question: Is the SPA attempting to ensure that it can’t be moved?

Last December, the SPA announced that it was selling 7.2 acres along with a 9,100 square foot building on Morrison Drive at the entrance to the Columbus Street Terminal. This on-street parcel, well away from downtown, would have provided an ideal entry for cruise terminal traffic.

Then last month, the SPA announced that it’s been negotiating a land swap that would hand over the Veterans Terminal to the Coast Guard and Homeland Security. Yet “in 2016,” reported the Post and Courier, “the SPA objected to a proposal to locate a new cruise ship facility at Veterans Terminal, saying that repairs would cost too much and that the terminal would play a key role in supporting a new cargo terminal being built at the nearby former Navy Base.”

The explosive growth in cruise travel

In May, 2015, SPA CEO James Newsome told city council that the “one sector that has not grown at all is the cruise sector” citing similar passenger counts of 186,000 for both 2011 and 2015. “It’s not a growth industry, we’ve said that from the start.” He added, “The market for cruise ships in this port is not that big, it will never be that big.”

Later in that speech, Newsome said that “In 2010 … we had 67 cruise ships.” What he didn’t say was that in 2015, Charleston would host 93 ships.

This year we’ve reached the SPA’s voluntary annual limit of 104 ships, for the second year in a row. And starting next year, Carnival predicts that the Sunshine alone will carry 220,000 passengers annually — “roughly matching the total number of passengers all ships brought to Charleston last year.” That’s a significant jump, because an additional 28 non-Carnival ships will visit Charleston this year.

Worldwide, cruise passengers soared from 4 million in 1990 to 25 million today.

Cruise passenger growth troubles many downtown residents. Although the SPA voluntarily agreed to limits of 104 ships annually with a maximum of 3,500 passengers per ship, those limits aren’t binding. A much-heralded city ordinance didn’t codify those limits as many thought; it only obligated the SPA notify the city a year in advance if it wants to break through those limits.

So far, the SPA has lived up to its voluntary limits and claims that will continue. Yet the SPA is still awaiting permission to build a terminal downtown at Union Pier, with an existing 1800-foot pier that can dock the world’s biggest ships.

If the SPA’s terminal application survives a citizens’ appeal in the S.C. Supreme Court and if its application is approved by the Army Corps of Engineers — in other words, if the SPA gets everything it wants — what will happen to those voluntary limits?

It’s not just the added traffic, noise, pollution, the high potential for irreversible environmental damage to the Historic District and the ever-growing discharge of cruise passengers onto our small-scale city that so strongly argues against a downtown cruise terminal. It’s economics and common sense.

That 63-acres on Union Pier may represent the most prized undeveloped waterfront property in the Southeast.

“It’s quite valuable,” one prominent commercial broker said, “it would depend on building heights and zoning allowed, of course, but harbor and waterfront property is very, very hard to come by. And private development is certainly a higher and better use than industrial or a cruise terminal.”

Hard evidence supports that opinion — the SPA’s 3.5-acre Concord Street waterfront headquarters sold for $38 million.

The lowest and worst use

The SPA plans to develop the southern 40 acres of the property. But using the remaining 23 prime acres for a cruise terminal, especially with nine acres of paved surface parking for cruise passengers, must be the lowest and worst use for this exceptional property.

“Acres of land for surface parking there is illogical,” said Jason Crowley, director of Communities and Transportation for the Coastal Conservation League, “and it doesn’t make any sense to sell any SPA property until we have a solution to the cruise terminal location that the city is involved in.”

“We should be addressing our resilience issues and restoring the shoreline back to a spongy, natural state that can absorb the velocity of water as it comes in,” Crowley said. Union Pier’s “hard edge” and acres of pavement that allows the water to “run off and flood our streets,” is inimical to resilience planning.

The SPA’s Newsome, quoted about an entirely different parcel, said selling off that property “will allow us to focus on our business as well as benefit the economy by returning public property to the local tax base.”

Union Pier is also “public property,” and the SPA can no longer stonewall public involvement. And the terminal’s “hard edge” with nine acres of paved parking is inexcusable and unacceptable.

Cruise ships represent just five percent of SPA revenues, the city receives no passenger revenue whatsoever and because Carnival passengers sail to become tourists in Nassau or Freeport, they don’t spend much money here.

A cruise terminal at Union Pier would constitute a misuse of this exceptional property, yet a planned 63-acre downtown development would transform the city, adding millions in tax revenues.

Charleston can’t afford this terminal plan. And if we don’t stop it, Venice won’t be the only city under water.

Jay Williams, Jr. arrived in Charleston in 2001 to escape the cold and relax in the warmth of a better culture and climate. This all worked well until May of 2011 when he attended a cruise terminal discussion at Physicians Hall.


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