In what would seem to be an inevitable action, the People of South Carolina have filed a lawsuit against Panama-based Carnival Cruise Lines. They claim that cruise ships hurt the environment [which no one is doubting], and that cruise lines must abide by laws protecting the historical and fragile ecosystem of Charleston, SC. The plaintiff, Southern Environmental Law Center, stated:
People simply want to see Carnival play by the rules just like everyone else so that an uncontrolled cruise industry doesn’t swamp Charleston’s health and heritage. Charleston relies on a careful balance between tourism and preservation that cruise ship interests shouldn’t overwhelm.
Now that’s fine and all, but why are they targeting the cruise lines? Because they are the figure heads of this? Go after the Port authority of Charleston, which also oversee both Container Terminals, which have ships calling far more frequently than the cruise port.
If you want to hear the City give their response to the “Outrageous” lawsuit. They kind of miss the point and oversimplify it. City of Charleston press conference regarding lawsuit against cruise line from Fox AV on Vimeo.
It is pretty common to see citizens rebel against maritime interests. In Alaska, which was once the hotspot of Cruising in the mid-2000’s before Europe came in to play, citizens of small coastal ports of Skagay, Sitka, Ketichkan, etc. have complained in the past. They stated that their little port comminutes were suddenly overwhelmed by the influx of people from the ships. There were also claims that pax were making messes and leaving the port areas very dirty. Sound familiar South Carolina? Then there were the recent issues about the environmental impacts of ships in Alaska. The states proposed a head tax that would be a per pax fee for port calls, that the state would use to offset the pollution from ships. Exactly how that would be handled is anyone’s guess. In the end, Alaskan Governor Sean Parnell agreed to lower the head tax after a luncheon sponsored by Carnival. The money will help, somehow, the environment in Alaska which is some of the most delicate in the world. Sound familiar South Carolina?
There are two feasible outcomes I can see here. I do not see the cruise lines going away. The prospect of all that revenue generated is too good for city officials to pass by. With the ships staying, the city cannot annoy the local groups. They can either:
- Propose a head tax just like Alaska. This will inevitably be fought hard by the CLIA. And just like Alaska, I’m sure they will settle on a fee per-pax.The money can be given directly to the conservation groups and make them happy.
- Regarding the emissions, propose a 3-mile zone just like California did. One of the arguments use by environmental groups is that ships burn heavy bunker fuel. This high sulfur fuel is some of the dirtiest out there. In California, legislation was passed that created a “3-mile zone.” This requires that any ship sailing within 3-miles of the California Coast, must burn LSMGO (Low Sulphur Marine Gas Oil) or ULSMGO (Ultra Low Sulphur Marine Gas Oil). These are more expensive then heavy bunkers which is why ships don’t burn it everywhere. South Carolina could require ships entering their ports to only burn this fuel.
On CruiseRadio Podcast no. 91, which I highly recommend, Doug and Matt spoke to Michelle Sinkler, Program Director at Coastal Conservation League. She stated that the alternative she wished to see is shoreside power. Just like Brooklyn, Seattle, and several other ports are doing. But where is that power coming from? Coal powered plants? Isn’t that still dirty.
This think green philosophy that has recently capsulated America still has a long way to go. Now don’t get me wrong, I support it, just as long as its done right and not just for show. Ships will always be dirty. Until we invent a zero discharge ship, which is impossible, there will never be a true green alternative. Ships are a microcosm representing a small city. Besides, is there such a thing as a Green City?
There’s reasonable measures that can be taken to solve this problem. It’s just going to require both sides to give a little. Unfortunately, given how politics are these days, that seems like a pipe dream.