In granting permission for a new cruise passenger terminal in Charleston, the S.C. office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management also acknowledged the importance of regulating the cruise industry that will use the terminal.
Unfortunately, the limitations that the city of Charleston and the S.C. State Ports Authority have agreed upon, and that the OCRM has endorsed, still are not binding.
During its quest to turn an old warehouse at Union Pier into a cruise terminal, the SPA and the city developed a cruise management plan, which limits the number and size of cruise ships calling on Charleston. The very fact that the plan was developed indicates those entities see the value of such restrictions.
Now, as announced Tuesday, the OCRM has included that management plan as a special condition for allowing the SPA to start installing piles for the new terminal.
If all agree that it is a good idea to limit the size and number of cruise ships in a city already attracting large numbers of visitors to a limited historic area, why make the plan for managing it voluntary?
Codifying these reasonable limitations would go a long way toward easing public concerns about the impacts of expanded cruise operations on the Charleston peninsula.
And making the rules binding would likely convince the National Trust for Historic Preservation to take Charleston off its list of places in jeopardy.
But the SPA and the city both have refused to take that step.
If the purpose of the management plan is to, well, manage the business, then why the dodge?
The OCRM and Carnival Cruise Lines (whose Fantasy cruise ship is home-based here) both profess that they value the environment. But neither has called for shoreside power, even though it is accepted as a good way to control emissions that can harm people’s health.
Shoreside power allows ships to use electricity to keep the air conditioning and lights on without emissions spewing from idling engines of vessels that are docked for hours.
Carnival has altered some of its ships to use shoreside power, and has bragged about its environmental conscience.
But not in Charleston. And neither the city nor the state OCRM (part of the Department of Healthand Environmental Control) has gone to bat for the people who live and work in the area and who breathe what the ships produce.
Ironically, the OCRM permit for the passenger terminal requires SPA contractors on the project to take measures to minimize air emissions — including turning off vehicles not in active use.
The SPA’s success is vital to the economy of Charleston and of South Carolina. It is good news that container traffic grew this year, and that Moody’s Investors Service has affirmed the SPA’s A1 rating, anticipating a stable future.
These recently announced achievements show that the SPA is under capable management — capable enough to see that real limitations would be an easy and effective way to calm the troublesome cruise industry debate.