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Residents of cities like Charleston, Key West, and Venice need to be able to manage the influx of visitors to their ports and their streets. So far, Charleston is the only one that’s found the right mix of public opposition and legal savvy to stay ahead of their mega-ship competition.
A citizens group from Charleston has formed a coalition with similar groups in Venice, Italy, and Key West, Fla., to work for regulations protecting smaller historic port cities from the congestion and pollution that can accompany cruise calls.
“The only way we can do anything is if we work together and if we shout together,” Carrie Agnew, executive director of Charleston Communities for Cruise Control, said Monday. “By working together and by joining forces and sending out the same messages everywhere we can have that much more credibility, we can have that much more reach.”
The Charleston group will work with a group called No Big Ships in Venice and the Key West Committee for Responsible Tourism. The size and number of cruise ships has been a subject of controversy in both cities in recent years and “Charleston is sort of on a precipice,” Agnew said.
Agnew says her group does not want to ban the cruise industry. “What we are looking for are reasonable regulations for port cities,” she said.
The Charleston group has proposed a Cruise Ship Code of Conduct that includes a ban on ships with a capacity of more than 3,000 from regularly visiting the city, limiting cruise calls in the city to two a week and requiring ships to use onshore power or burn low sulfur fuel while idling at dockside.
Supporters of the Charleston’s cruise industry say the city will only be a niche market and that the cruise trade is being appropriately handled. They say it creates jobs and is an economic boost for the city.
Carnival Cruise Lines’ 2,056-passenger liner Fantasy has home-ported in Charleston for more than three years. Before that, cruises made port calls, but no ships were based in the city.
The expanded cruise industry and the South Carolina State Ports Authority’s plans for a $35 million cruise terminal has resulted in lawsuits by environmental, preservation and neighborhood groups in state and federal court and a permit challenge in state administrative law court.
On Nov. 19, the state Supreme Court hears arguments in a lawsuit alleging that cruises in the city are a public nuisance and violate city zoning ordinances.
Meanwhile, the South Carolina State Ports Authority is appealing a federal judge’s decision tossing out a permit to install pilings allowing the terminal to be built. U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel ruled earlier in September there was no adequate review of the effects on the city’s historic district. Another challenge to a state permit for those pilings will be heard in administrative law court early next year.
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