A hot topic among coastal cities in the United States and the world is whether to allow operation of the ever growing cruise ships in the smaller port towns. Opponents argue permitting the large liners into the smaller ports have the potential to negatively impact the marine environment as well as sacrifice the unique character of the city. Proponents argue the cruise ship trade boosts the area’s economy. We recently reported on the people of Key West soundly voting against a port expansion project which would allow larger cruise ships to visit the city. In contrast to the decision Key West made, a commission in Port Canaveral approved expanding its terminal.
This debate is now being battled out in the court system. The South Carolina Supreme Court recently heard legal arguments on a case brought by Preservation Society of Charleston and the Coastal Conservation League seeking to block cruise ships from operating in Charleston. The lawsuit centers on the accusation that the ships violate city zoning and create a nuisance. Attorney J. Blanding Holman IV, who represents the plaintiffs, argues the suit should go forward because of the systematic harm the ships are bringing to a confined and historic part of Charleston.
Marvin Infinger, the attorney representing the S.C. Ports Authority argues the lawsuit has the potential to damage global commerce if taken to the extreme. Charleston’s city attorney, Frances Cantwell, argues the plaintiffs are not uniquely affected by the traffic and congestion the cruise ships have brought to the Charleston waterfront and, therefore, have no legal right challenge their continued operation.
The two groups previously collaborated in 2011 in attempting to block Carnival Cruise Lines from operating along the harbor waterfront. The Court has not released a timetable on when a decision would be made.