Our community has spent an enormous amount of time and resources choosing sides over one issue, "shore power," that ought to unite us as we move forward in the expansion of our city's economy and the improvement of our way of life.
There is no site on the East Coast more in need of redevelopment than the Union Pier waterfront.
The site is roughly 74 acres, of which 43 are land, 20 are constructed deck over water and 11 are wetlands. The property spans a half mile, north to south, and whether viewed from land, from water or from space, it is old, tired and in desperate need of attention.
Luckily, the owner of the land has a plan for phased redevelopment that includes the relocation of buildings, the reopening of Concord Street, the creation of an historic landing at the end of the Market, the designation of land for parks and public space, the creation of a mixed-use waterfront neighborhood, the reintegration of our natural waterfront and, yes, a new cruise terminal.
The ambitious but needed plan will take time, patience, money, and most importantly for this writing, electricity and a lot of it.
In order for the State Ports Authority to develop what amounts to the central eastern portion of the Charleston peninsula, the efficient delivery of power is a prerequisite and is an important part of the developmental process, no different than every other project of its scope. It will demand the integration of an electrical substation that will allow for the distribution of high voltage power. The stepped-down voltage can be used to power all manner of buildings, vehicles and vessels on site.
If Charleston is to be a leader in the maritime industry, I can think of no logical reason not to include all of the amenities necessary to provide a full range of resources for ships that call on Charleston.
The ongoing debate about "shore power" is nothing more than a reminder that there will be multiple power needs that must be met before redevelopment of Union Pier. Once an electrical plan is designed, all "shore power" really entails is running electrical cables (preferably underground) to the point of ship embarkation and providing several transformers, depending on the needs of any particular vessel. It is not complicated, it is not expensive and, of course, we should have it.
The advantages of building a state-of- the-art facility complete with dockside electrical capacity (aka shore power), both environmental and economic, cannot be overstated or discounted.
Port of call ships, a market that is sure to grow (as it delivers people to our city that increases its worldwide allure daily) will increasingly have shore power capability.
The minute they plug in, these ships will be consuming electricity produced at one of several power stations located in South Carolina. And while each fuel source has a different way of providing the force to turn the generators and make electricity, we know with certainty the cost and environmental impact of that process. Ships have only one way of producing that electricity; burning bunker fuel, a by-product that is simply bad for you.
And, no manner of retrofitted scrubber, reduced sulphur fuel, government regulation or self-monitoring for unhealthy particulate matter will keep the Carnival Fantasy afloat forever nor will they adequately succeed in protecting our environment.
Again, it is likely that the next generation of ships will be equipped to consume power created right here in South Carolina and in fact will expect to do so. And we expect it to. Boosting our economy while protecting the health of our citizens is, simply stated, the only acceptable course.
In its own words, the SPA's "forward progress in redeveloping Union Pier is critical not only due to the potential for economic growth but also for the redevelopment of a waterfront asset and the opportunity for increased public access."
None of this can be accomplished without an infrastructure that includes a designed plan for the delivery of basics, electricity included. The development plan, by its own weight, includes the very core requirements for making shore power available; the cost is already built in to the Master Development Plan.
We, as a city have long sought access to the east side waterfront. It's coming, and so is shore power.
Mike Seekings represents District 8 on Charleston City Council.