Mt. Pleasant leaders turn to cruise passengers to boost East Cooper businesses

Mt. Pleasant leaders turn to cruise passengers to boost East Cooper businesses

MOUNT PLEASANT, SC (WCSC) - Mt. Pleasant leaders are looking to bring cruise passengers across the Cooper River to boost local businesses.

The town's Economic Development committee met Tuesday and voted to approve a staff feasibility study, focused on transporting cruise ship passengers to the town via ship tenders.  Currently, ships such as Carnival Cruise line dock in downtown Charleston, but the S.C. Ports Authority can only host only one ship at a time and handle no more than 104 cruise ships a year.

"They're a destination port," Council member Gary Santos said. "We don't want to compete with them. All I'm trying to do is get the overflow….so they can still visit the city of Charleston."

Once the terminal is at capacity, Mt. Pleasant could potentially dock a ship in the harbor and tender passengers to the towns' shores.

"It'll only be a port of call, no embarkation, debarkation," Santos said. Santos proposed the study, adding the impact on the town would be minimal but could potentially be a big boost for local businesses.

"The tenders will d rop off the guests and then go back to the ship so they won't stay moored here," Santos said. Santos proposed the tenders d rop off passengers at Mt. Pleasant's Waterfront Park, where a Phase 2 pier project is already in the works or alternately, another pier along Patriots Point. Passengers could then explore the USS Yorktown, play golf, and tour plantations, among other Mt. Pleasant attractions. Santos said because passengers would travel by bus or tours, there'd be little impact on traffic.

Councilman Mark Smith said livability as well as traffic concerns would be a top priority for staff evaluating feasibility.

"There's no impact on the town, but some positive impact on the businesses here," Santos said. "Hopefully, it'll help their bottom line."

Santos said all the infrastructure is in place to bring passengers East of the Cooper, but the coast guard would need to approve security. Once town staff concludes their study, full council will vote on the recommendation.

The South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and the Southern Environmental Law Center released the following statement Tuesday, regarding the proposal involving possible cruise visits to Mt. Pleasant:

"Any proposal that helps the Charleston area better balance the number of cruise visits is worth of discussion, as long as it moves towards preservation of the public's health, the environment, and the federally protected historic downtown. The SPA has assured our community it will limit the number of cruise ships visits to 104 a year, although it has declined to make that agreement legally binding. Nevertheless, the SPA promised it would not skirt that number by allowing ships to anchor in the harbor and ferry passengers to shore."

Copyright 2016 WCSC. All rights reserved.