Based on the continued lack of legally binding standards and limitations on the cruise industry in Charleston, C4 proposes that the following “Code of Conduct” be adhered to by all cruise ships embarking, debarking or visiting the city of Charleston, South Carolina. 

Charleston is a small historic city that is both a thriving tourist destination and home to tax-paying businesses and
residential citizens.  As such, a balance between the two groups is necessary to ensure that visitors and residents alike can benefit from what Charleston has to offer. 

C4’s Proposed



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 by 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 regulations.


6. Cruise lines are not currently required to pay accommodation or passenger taxes in Charleston unlike they do at 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.



SPA has announced plans to accommodate 104 cruise ship visits per year—a drastic increase from previous schedules of visits that were predominantly ports-of-call, by ships of smaller size and passenger capacity, and less frequent. Existing regulations of the cruise industry and its practices at national and international levels are inadequate —many other cruise ports have imposed their own stricter regulations. We seek the same for Charleston.

Modern cruise terminals are not located next to residential areas, particularly historic areas. As one example, Boston’s redeveloped terminal is three miles from the center of that historic city.

Cruise operations at Union Pier impact the quality of life, health and property values of surrounding residents and businesses through traffic congestion, pollution, soot, noise and visual obstruction of our historic skyline and city. Such operations jeopardize land-based tourism drawn by historical ambiance, as evidenced by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which has placed Charleston on a specially-created “Watch List” of endangered historic places.

Carnival Cruise Lines has a tarnished record of environmental compliance, and the company pays no local taxes or fees despite its negative impact on our roads, air, skyline, waters and quality of life—even though its annual profits are in the billions. Economic benefits flow mostly to SPA and Carnival, and the negative effects on quality of life and property values far outweigh the modest benefits to the local economy.

SPA has never studied alternative sites at the northern end of the Columbus Street Terminal or at Patriots Point, instead directing its experts to look only at Union Pier.

Using another site for the cruise terminal would allow redevelopment of the entire 65 acre Union Pier site for mixed-use (shops, restaurants, offices, parks and residences) that would provide maximum long-term job creation, multi-millions in future tax revenues, and complete public waterfront access—attributes which the current SPA plan fails to offer.

Private enterprise should be favored at the scenic Union Pier site, rather than a government activity such as SPA, as the State recognized in 2009 when it passed a law ordering SPA to sell three port properties, including Daniel Island.