BY PAM ZARESK
My parents always said, “The Good Lord gave you two ears and two eyes and only one mouth so you look and listen twice as much as you talk.”
As the new president of the Maritime Association of SC and as a retired port director for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Charleston and Orlando (with responsibility for Port Canaveral), I feel I’ve looked and listened long enough and cannot hold my tongue any longer when it comes to the cruise terminal debate.
First, the proposed cruise terminal is not just a building — it’s an international passenger processing facility. It is the border of our country and as such is subject to numerous federal rules and regulations. The security of this country is based upon the ability of CBP to effectively and efficiently process arriving passengers. The current facility is only (barely) functional due to extreme cooperation among the State Ports Authority, CBP and Carnival Cruise Lines.
Having spent 35 years of my life devoted to protecting the borders while facilitating international trade and travel, believe me when I say that building a new cruise terminal is the only option if we want to maintain this vital piece of our local economy.
Assuming most rational people agree an industry that pumps $37 million into our economy is worth maintaining, the question becomes where to place the new terminal.
The idea of putting the cruise terminal at Columbus Street rather than a redeveloped Union Pier makes absolutely no business sense.
While the cruise industry generates millions for our economy, its impact is dwarfed by the current import and export of automobiles and break-bulk cargo at Columbus Street. BMW alone exported goods primarily through Columbus Street valued at $7.4 billion in 2011. The idea of displacing these activities to accommodate cruise operations simply doesn’t add up.
On a personal note, as a Columbus Street resident I wonder how in good conscience the good-hearted environmentalists among us can push for the Columbus Street alternative if they truly believe their own rhetoric.
Won’t East Side residents be impacted just as negatively as those in Ansonborough?
There have even been reports of cruise opponents telling dockworkers they are going to die as a result of their working so close to these and other ships. Clearly, there is a double standard at play.
But in what has become a recurring theme, their “medical” argument has no basis in fact. In 32 years of providing over 75,000 health exams to area dockworkers, I’m happy to say that the Waterfront Employers-ILA Pension and Welfare Fund reports no trends or pockets of abnormalities among their workers that is indicative of airborne or chemical exposures.
And if that’s not convincing consider the following. Ship fuel for ocean-going vessels is regulated by treaty under the International Maritime Organizations’ MARPOL (Maritime Pollution) Annex VI, which on March 26, 2010 designated a 230-mile area around the North American coast as an Emission Control Area (ECA).
The SPA, the World Shipping Council and others supported this industry-wide standard and enforcement of the ECA begins next month. This will require much cleaner, lower sulfur fuel in all ships, which the EPA says will slash the amount of sulfur from 45,000 ppm globally to 1,000 ppm in the ECA.
Coupled with the fact that Carnival is already purchasing and using a cleaner fuel with only about 2 percent sulfur, which is about half of what is permitted under the current global standard, the dire health arguments being tossed about are disingenuous at best.
Yes, this has become very personal to me. I live downtown and work for the waterfront community and I love doing so.
All the concerns about traffic and congestion due to cruise ships will go away when the new terminal is built (of course all the traffic and congestion that comes with SEWE, Spoleto, Food and Wine, Fashion Week — all of which I love — will continue) and we will have even more public access to the beautiful Charleston waterfront.
Regardless of where the cruise terminal is located I will continue to clean the dirt and soot from my piazzas on a daily basis — as I have long before a cruise ship was home-ported here. And I will continue to be grateful to live in a city that is dynamic and economically thriving thanks to the maritime industry.
So to steal from the “Git ’er dug” slogan those of us who support harbor deepening continue to use, when it comes to the cruise terminal I say it’s time to “Git ’er built!”
Pam Zaresk is president of the Maritime Association of South Carolina, a statewide trade association representing the interests of member companies working within the maritime transportation sector. She is the former Charleston port director for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.