Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cruise News: Charleston Groups File "Frivolous" and "Irresponsible" Lawsuit Against Carnival Cruise Lines

Long-time residents along the Atlantic coast of the Carolinas have a saying that, "An environmentalist is someone who just closed the purchase of his own beach front home." Put another way, they develop an attitude problem with a growing agenda. It's the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) attitude and, according to their agenda, there is no such thing as good future growth, despite whether it's for the general benefit of their community or state. Several groups in Charleston are exhibiting that attitude in regard to a certain type of tourism. It seems the only good tourist is one that doesn't intend to take a cruise. Cruiser tourists are environmentally unfriendly due to what the groups call a "giant" cruise operation. Cruise visitors are blamed for explosive traffic and, well, just about anything that could annoy Charleston's upper crust. In retaliation for their insulted sensibilities, The Historic Ansonborough Neighborhood Association, Charlestowne Neighborhood Association, Preservation Society of Charleston, and S.C. Coastal Conservation League have enlisted the Southern Environmental Law Center to file a complaint against Carnival Cruise Lines in state court. The lawsuit alleges that cruise ships violate local zoning ordinances and state laws and result in noise, air pollution, traffic congestion, and blocked views.

Not ones to stand idly by, Charleston city leaders and port officials are publicly defending Carnival and, in the video below, they state their case quite effectively. Their argument, that Charleston has been a maritime city since 1680, is a solid one—it's grown to be the nation's fourth busiest container port and has welcomed cruise passengers for decades, either during one-day port calls or as a seasonal home port. Port officials have stated that the cruise industry brings in $37 million annually and supports more than 400 jobs. And that's not just beneficial for Charleston, but includes a three-county coastal region. The city, State Ports Authority, Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, and the International Longshoremen's Union local intend to intervene on Carnival's behalf in the suit, which has been called "frivolous" and "irresponsible" by Bill Stern, Chairman of the S.C. States Port Authority, and "abusive" by Charleston's Mayor Joe Riley.

The lawsuit does indeed make bizarre claims against Carnival Fantasy that can only be termed imaginative. For instance the suit alleges that Carnival Fantasy defies sign regulations because of its funnel "with its unique fluke-like shape and bright, red, white, and blue coloring, the funnel is a registered Carnival trademark used as a corporate logo in marketing material is trademarked"; the ship supposedly defies building height regulations, despite the fact that a ship is not a building and most of the city is uphill from the harbor and actually looks down on it; and that Carnival Fantasy provides accommodations that are not allowed in the pier area because it's not zoned for that purpose, even though a ship is not a permanent hotel structure. You can read the entire complaint here. In general, the plaintiffs in the suit accuse the ship of being, well...icky. So far there's no word from Carnival, but they may not have been served with the lawsuit yet. Or they may still be laughing over the outrageous claims.

Oh, by the way, the photo above is Carnival Fantasy as seen from the roadway leading to the current cruise terminal. You might note in the photo that Carnival Fantasy doesn't even dwarf the terminal building. The ship is barely visible over the roof and hardly blocks anyone's view. Cruise Diva shot that picture from the bus that takes passengers from the parking structure (an old warehouse building) to the terminal. What the enviro-wackos say about Charleston traffic is true, but it's not just on cruise ship embark/debark days. On the morning we embarked there was less traffic on the way to the pier than what we'd encountered when we drove past it the previous afternoon, when no cruise ship was in port. The reality is that Charleston's downtown is a maze of congested one-way streets that are best navigated with a good GPS device.

Don't get me wrong, I love the city and when anyone asks I praise it highly. But Savannah is also a charming port city steeped in Southern tradition and hospitality. And Savannah's city fathers are eyeing the cruise industry to boost their tourism appeal and economy. I hope cooler heads prevail in Charleston, but if they don't, we have a saying here in Georgia, "Y'all come on in!"

No comments: