Cruise ships like the Carnival Sunshine idling offshore have been cited as major sources of particulate pollution in downtown Charleston | Credit: Sam Spence file photo

The State Ports Authority (SPA) announced today it will be terminating its home port contract with Carnival Cruise Lines as part of its first step in redeveloping Union Pier. The last Carnival docking at the old pier will happen in late 2024. The move has city leaders and environmentalists optimistic about the future of the city.

“This is great news for our city, and for our citizens’ quality of life,” said Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg. “We’re grateful to the port for taking this critically important step, and we look forward to continuing to work with SPA to make Union Pier a beautiful and vibrant part of the city of Charleston.”

A statement signed by six local advocacy groups echoes the hopeful outlook, but group leaders said it’s important to remain vigilant to protect the unique, “world-class,” historic city of Charleston. 

“While we are optimistic about what appears to be a new direction for the future of the cruise industry in Charleston, we look forward to learning more about the implications of this decision,” the statement said. “We support limited port of call business — especially smaller ships that will have a greater economic impact — as long as the SPA continues to abide by a previous agreement to limit cruise ships in Charleston to 103 visits or fewer each year. We also need more information about whether ships will be docked overnight.”

Advocates say they will continue to advocate for access to shore power for all ships that are equipped to use it. 

The statement was signed by leaders from the Charleston Communities for Cruise Control, the Coastal Conservation League, the Historic Charleston Foundation, the Preservation Society of Charleston, the S.C. Environmental Law Project, and the Southern Environmental Law Center.