South Carolina Court Dismisses Cruise Lawsuit Against Carnival

January 22, 2014
(2:45 p.m. EST) -- The South Carolina Supreme Court has dismissed a suit against Carnival Cruise Lines that claimed cruise operations in downtown Charleston were unlawful and adversely affecting the city's residents.

On Wednesday, the court ruled that the lawsuit did not show that the plaintiffs "suffered from a particular harm" so they had no standing, according to the Post & Courier. Any inconveniences that the cruise line caused were incurred "by all persons residing in or passing through the City of Charleston," the court stated.

Carnival operates about 60 cruises annually from Charleston aboard 2,052-passenger Carnival Fantasy. While other cruise lines -- including Holland America, Regent Seven Seas, Crystal, Royal Caribbean, Princess and Oceania -- also stop in the southern city, Carnival made it an embarkation port in 2010.

While ships currently use Union Pier, the more controversial issue is a proposed $35 million expanded cruise terminal to be built within an existing waterfront warehouse on the property's north end.

Legal challenges emerged almost immediately after the project was announced in 2011, as neighborhood associations, preservation groups and conservationists claimed that too many large vessels and the resulting tourists would overwhelm the city's historical charm. It's an argument that has resonated with preservationists within other historically fragile ports, including Key West and Venice, which banned large cruise ships from the city center last fall.

While the dismissal of today's suit is a victory for cruise lines, other legal challenges are still pending. In December, a judge allowed opponents to challenge a state permit allowing pilings to support a proposed terminal at Union Pier, according to the Post & Courier.

And in a hearing last fall, a federal judge tossed out an U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' permit for the cruise terminal project. While the South Carolina State Ports Authority and Corps were going to appeal that decision, where a judge ruled that the government agency "did not adequately review the project's effects on the city's historic district," the agencies dropped the appeal earlier this month, according to Bloomberg.

For now, Carnival is happy with the current win. "We are pleased with the court's ruling and look forward to our continued partnership with the South Carolina Ports Authority and ongoing year-round cruise operations from Charleston on the Carnival Fantasy," line spokesman Vance Gulliksen said Wednesday.

--By Chris Gray Faust, Destinations Editor