Having the cruise ship industry operating out of your city can be equal parts convenient and controversial. Charleston has experienced this firsthand and has recently made the decision to end its contract with the cruise industry as a port of departure. But cruise ships will still be able to dock at the South Carolina Ports for same-day port of call stopovers. 

History of the Cruising Industry in Charleston

If you live and work in the Charleston area, you know that it’s a popular destination with a rich history. In 2009, the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) signed an agreement with Carnival Cruise Lines to operate a year-round passenger port at the Union Pier Terminal. 

Service began in 2010, with the pier becoming the home port of the Carnival Fantasy, offering cruises to the Bahamas, Key West, and later to Bermuda. Other cruise lines, like Celebrity, began making Charleston a port of call. 

The controversy and debate surrounding these developments concerned the impact on the existing infrastructure due to the increased traffic on Charleston’s historic waterfront, the compliance with the cruise industry’s security requirements, and the extensive redevelopment plans proposed for the passenger terminal. 

Decision to Not Renew the SCPA Cruising Contract

Last month, the SCPA announced it would not be renewing its cruising contract with Carnival to use the Union Pier Terminal as an embarkation and debarkation point. Specifically, as of 2024, cruise ships will no longer be able to start or end their journeys in the city. 

However, the SCPA will still allow cruise ships to dock in the city for same-day port of call visits, with a limit of no more than 104 cruise ships annually. This move is expected to reduce the number of cruise passengers in Charleston by up to 80%. Also, the SCPA plans to suspend its plans to redevelop the Union Pier passenger terminal. 

Economic Impact of the SC Ports

Even without the cruising industry, the SC Ports has a significant economic impact on the region, giving the state a significant competitive advantage. The port currently generates 1 in 10 jobs statewide. April 2022 marked the 14th consecutive month of cargo records at the Port, driven by strong retail imports. 

With recent expansion efforts, the SC Ports will soon be home to the deepest harbor on this country’s East Coast. The operations currently generate nearly $63.4 billion in economic activity annually. 

The continued expansion of the SC Ports brings additional business opportunities to the Charleston area. If your business is interested in purchasing or leasing commercial property, you’ll want to work with a reputable commercial real estate company you can trust. Contact Caldwell Commercial to learn more about how we can put our decades of experience to work for you.