Venice to cruise ships: Get out please

Venice is proud of its heritage. Home to beautiful architecture, canals, bridges, gondolas, the annual Venice Film Festival, the Basilica and many other churches along with museums like the Guggenheim, its probably no surprise that cruise ships are not on the top of their list of things to add to the mix. In the wake of the Concordia grounding, considering the threat of accidents, air and water pollution, and an additional 2 million more visitors a year into a city already maxed out with tourists, Venice has a plan to keep cruise ships away.

The city does not want cruise ships in their lagoon at all but as a first step to keep them away, wants to reroute ships arriving in Venice so they stay farther from St. Mark’s and other prominent monuments as a possible step toward keeping them out of the lagoon altogether.

“This is one of the hypotheses we’re working on,” Environmental Minister Corrado Clini told the Associated Press. “In the meantime we should take precautionary measures to progressively reduce risk.”

The Venice Port Authority opposes moves against cruise traffic saying the cruise industry employs thousands of Venetians and believes Venice is not a candidate for cruise ships to run aground like the Concordia did last month, not all that far away.

In addition, a team of 25 cruise ship captains work around the clock as pilots of a sort, assigned to board cruise ships outside the lagoon and oversee their passage through Venice, accompanied by a pair of tug boats.

To deal with the air pollution, the port is exploring a system that would let ships plug in to shore side power when docked, similar to how ships plug in to U.S. West coast ports, allowing them to turn off their engines. Like U.S. systems, a green shore side power system will be costly and seems to have stalled for that reason.

Unlike U.S. ports concerned about the impact of cruise ships though, Venice is a United Nations-protected UNESCO site and Francesco Bandarin, UNESCO’s assistant director-general for culture, a Venetian himself, said longer-term solutions are needed.

“The city is a very fragile city. This is a city that comes to us from the Middle Ages,” Bandarin told the AP. “It is not designed for having that kind of traffic. It is designed to have ships, and we will always have ships around Venice, but not these kind of ships.”

Flickr photo by jastrow75

America’s Cup to put clean-air program on hold

By 2014, cruise ships stopping in San Francisco will be required to plug in to cleaner shore-side power rather than running their diesel-burning/polluting engines. Several cruise lines have been preparing for the new requirement and are already up and running. But the $5 million clean-air program along the San Francisco waterfront will be temporarily halted to accommodate the prestigious America’s Cup regatta, prompting criticism from environmental advocates.

“With just one stroke of a pen, it’s gone,” said Teri Shore, program director at the Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN) reports the San Francisco Bay Guardian. While the shore-side power hookup is disabled, “The ships will be coming in and parking, and running their diesel engines” at other waterfront piers.

Smaller ships used in the regatta and operation of the regatta itself does not allow for use of plug-in technology, a sore spot with environmentalists. Fearing the impact of America’s Cup crowds and construction, several environmental organizations and a neighborhood group have joined together with a unified message.
“This is a real unusual team effort,”Deb Self, executive director of San Francisco Baykeeper, a pollution watchdog told the San Francisco Business Times “At this point it’s kind of all hands on deck.”

Their concerns include the coordination and capacity of public transportation, keeping the bay free of pollutants when visiting boaters descend on the region, minimizing the effects of dredging on bay wildlife and protecting fragile habitats that line the waterfront.

The Port had already anticipated temporarily halting the shore-side power for a year during construction of a Pier 27 cruise terminal, Brad Benson of the Port of San Francisco told the Guardian. “Assuming there were no America’s Cup, it would already not be in operation … for approximately one year,” he explained. After a year of construction that will mark the first phase of the cruise terminal project, the 34th annual America’s Cup will move onto the site, he said. “As a result of the America’s Cup, shore-side power is not going to be available for one year.”

Benson said the port is starting to look at how it could offset the impacts, looking for ways to reduce carbon emissions that might make up for no shore-side power “I can’t tell you whether we could achieve the same level of emissions reductions that shore-side power would provide,” he said. “It’s very effective.”

It looks like this will be an issue to watch right along with the America’s Cup who this week announced Team Korea as a new entry to this prestigious event, with a press briefing at the spectacular Seoul Marina on the Han River in Seoul.

Only fifteen nations have ever entered the America’s Cup contest in its history, and Team Korea is the only new entry of the nine teams and eight countries involved this time. The 34th annual event brings the competition for the oldest trophy in international sport back to the United States for the first time in 18 years.

Flickr photo by Port of San Diego

New York cruise port wants green power… two years ago

It’s been two years since Carnival Corp, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Brooklyn cruise terminal port authority agreed to enable cruise ships to plug in to green shore-side power. West coast ports are doing it already with San Diego going online just last month.

All parties agree that it’s a good idea and are ready to move forward. But an agreement on maintenance and operating costs just can’t be reached.

Environmentally angry diesel fuel burned by cruise ships idling while docked can spew a ton of pollutants into the air, about the same amount as 1000 idling cars.

Nearby neighbors of the port are angry, tired of it all and want action.

“The emissions are invisible but get in people’s lungs and cause all sorts of damage,” said activist Anthony Armstrong, who lives with his wife and two children just two blocks from the cruise terminal. “It’s a huge concern around here.” reports the New York Post.

Carnival Cruise Line is ready to go and knows what they need to do. Sister-lines Princess Cruises and Holland America Line already have ships outfitted with the new green power technology and are plugging in on the West coast. They know how to do it.

The EPA and port authority have set aside $15 million to make it happen. All that remains is an agreement on who will pay ongoing costs of maintaining and operating the system.

“We need a comprehensive shore power agreement now,” Councilman Brad Lander told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. “We’ve had two years of idling ships and idling negotiations. We have a tremendous opportunity to make a real difference in the health of our communities, and the sustainability of our port.”

Here we have the cruise industry, sometimes criticized for its polluting ways, stepping up to do the right thing. The cruise port wants green power. Neighbors are all over it and no one can figure out how to make that happen.

Wouldn’t it kind of make sense that whoever uses the power from the new system would pay for it?

I’m just sayin’

Flickr photo by postopp1