Port affirms Union Pier cruise terminal plan

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The South Carolina State Ports Authority Board on Thursday affirmed both its plans to move ahead with its new cruise terminal on the north end of Union Pier, as well as its commitment to effectively manage the cruise business and keep cruises compatible with the size and unique character of Charleston.

In a resolution approved unanimously, the SCSPA Board committed to advancing the new cruise terminal in the location identified in the Union Pier Concept Plan, which was developed with extensive public input over the course of 18 months and endorsed by City Council last September.

The new terminal – shifted north of the current passenger terminal on the Union Pier Terminal property – will be located in an existing cargo-handling facility. Redevelopment of the southern end of the property – Phase 2 of the Union Pier Concept Plan – would begin following the successful relocation of the cruise operation to the northern portion of the property.

Last month, a $2.4-million contract for design work on the facility was awarded to CH2M Hill along with a team of local engineers and architects. Conversion of the building is slated to begin by the end of the year and the terminal is expected to open by the end of 2012.

Supplementing the Board's Resolution, SCSPA Chairman Bill Stern and President and CEO Jim Newsome wrote in a letter to Charleston Mayor Joe Riley that the agency will continue to operate transparently and adhere to its cruise management plan, which describes that the port will host only one ship at a time and handle no more than 104 cruise ships a year.

"Charleston is a niche cruise market mainly supported by customers who drive to Charleston from a four or five state area. More than 80 percent of the embark/debark passengers come from these states," Stern and Newsome stated in the letter. "The voluntary limit on the number of ships approximates both the size of the passenger market and the size of ship that would be successful in Charleston."

The SCSPA recognizes that proactive consultation with stakeholders is necessary and so clarified the communication and public input solicitation measures should at any time the nature of cruise business in Charleston change. These actions, committed by the SCSPA to begin at least one year in advance of any change, include:

  • Written notification to key stakeholders, including the Mayor, City Council, Cruise Neighbors Advisory Council, Maritime Association of South Carolina, Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, Historic Charleston Foundation and the Preservation Society.
  • Convening of a community forum.
  • Solicitation of public input through one or more public hearings, including a public hearing during a City Council meeting.
  • Careful and thoughtful consideration of all public input.
  • And a report to the Mayor and City Council on the SCSPA's findings and decision.

Newsome and Stern's letter also commits to an open and public process for the Phase 2 non-maritime redevelopment process.

For additional information on the SCSPA's cruise business and plans, you can visit www.UnionPierPlan.com.

Information provided by the South Carolina State Ports Authority