Charleston Debates Whether Cruise Project Should Set Sail

As the cruise industry grows, being a port of call is an increasingly lucrative proposition. However, many cities are having a hard time balancing "the economic benefits of cruise ships against their cultural and environmental impact."
February 22, 2013, 5am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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With the number of cruise passengers expected to increase by as much as 8 percent in the next year alone, Kim Severson uses Charleston as a case study to explore the dilemma that many of America's coastal cities are facing with how to balance being hospitable to cruise ships (and their customers) with concerns over environmental and cultural impacts.

In charming Charleston, "[t]he South Carolina Ports Authority wants to build a new ship terminal that port officials say will handle only one ship at a time, but the frequency of ships could increase," explains Severson. "Those dedicated to preserving a section of town whose buildings date to the 1700s worry that a new terminal will bring a damaging concentration of tourist traffic and larger cruise vessels."

"Port officials point out that cruise ships are a tiny slice of the city’s shipping traffic," she adds. "More than 1,700 vessels use the port every year, and only 85 of those are cruise ships. And cruise traffic, they say, is worth $37 million a year to the region."

"But this city takes its preservation seriously. The specter of more cruise ships has spawned three state and federal lawsuits and has placed the city’s historic district on the World Monuments Fund’s list of most endangered cultural sites."

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Published on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 in The New York Times
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