Charleston City Council Approves Cruise Plan

After a three-hour debate by business, environmental and historic preservation leaders, the Charleston (SC) City Council on Tuesday night approved a plan to develop a new cruise terminal in the city. Slated to open by third quarter 2012, Charleston's new terminal will replace the current cruise facility at the foot of Market Street. The new terminal will serve up to two cruise ships a week. 

Council approval came after weeks of heated debate by pro-tourism and pro-business groups with anti-cruise, environmental protection and historic preservation groups; the latter worried about possible pollution, increased traffic, an overflow of tourists and the "quality" of those tourists.

Business groups and the longshoremen's union had stressed that more cruise tourism would benefit the city economically and bring new jobs. Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, who strongly supported the cruise terminal plan, said most cruisers visit the city, spending money on dining, retail goods and hotel stays.

The new terminal is just one part of a $25 million plan by the South Carolina State Ports Authority to reconfigure and modernize port facilities at Charleston. That authority plans to both redevelop the Union Pier Terminal property and move cargo traffic further north to the Columbus Street Terminal.

Charleston cruise ship traffic doubled over the past two years. Carnival Fantasy began the city's first year-round service this year. The city expects 67 cruise ships this year and up to 94 next year.