New Cruise Ship Terminal Opens at Pier 27

The grand opening of the James R. Herman Cruise Terminal at Pier 27 in San Francisco next week is expected to attract more tourists and more cruise ships to the city, officials said today.

The $100 million modern cruise ship terminal is designed to accommodate vessels carrying between 2,600 and 4,000 passengers, which means more passengers will arrive in San Francisco via cruise ships then ever before, according to the Port of San Francisco.

Among those who endorsed the development of a new cruise terminal in the city was Princess Cruises’ vice president of shore operations, Bruce Krumrine.

In a letter to the Port of San Francisco in 2010, Krumrine said that among other advantages, the Port would gain the ability to handle larger ships and a greater number of passengers, translating to more business for Princess Cruises.

According to Cruise Line International Association, the cruise industry’s official trade organization, the cruise ship industry has grown about 7 percent each year since 1980.

With the industry’s growth, however, ships have also gotten larger, acting more like cities than boats and developing issues, such as crime, that are no stranger to cities.

As the ships grow larger and the cruise destinations expand to far-reaching corners of the globe, passengers’ rights as well as environmental protections have not yet caught up, critics say.

In one year spanning 2007 to 2008, 421 incidents of crime were reported by the cruise ship industry to the FBI. Of those crimes, 154 were sex-related, according to the testimony of Dr. Ross Klein, a professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland who testified at a U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing on the oversight of the cruise industry in 2012.

Klein said many passengers are not aware of the high level of onboard crime, persons overboard, and sexual assaults that have been occurring on cruise ships. He also argued for public reporting of all alleged crimes on cruise ships.

Victims of crimes onboard ships have reported dealing with crew members who are not adequately trained to deal with crime scenes and Klein’s research suggests that cruise ship employees who work as the ships’ security guards “are not in a position to objectively investigate crimes onboard cruise ships,” considering their salaries are paid by the cruise line and that law enforcement officers may be hundreds of miles away when the crime is reported.

Klein also testified to the committee on the need for further reducing the environmental impact of cruise ships and having stricter restrictions regarding dumping of greywater, sewage, oily bilge and solid waste into the oceans.

According the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, cruise ship operators providing amenities to their passengers such as pools, hair salons, restaurants, and dry cleaners, have the potential to generate a large amount of waste that ends up in the oceans.

“As the cruise ship industry continues to expand, there is an increasing concern about the environmental impacts of cruise ship discharges, including impacts to water quality,” according to the agency’s website.

Klein said the U.S. acts as an anomaly in the world by allowing discharge of treated sewage within three miles of the coast and untreated sewage between three and twelve miles of the coast.

According to the environmental organization, Oceana, cruise ships that hold between 2,000 and 3,000 passengers can generate some 1,000 tons of waste per day, with much of that flowing back into the oceans.

Oceana also pointed to coral reefs around the world that had been damaged or destroyed by cruise ship’s casting their anchors over coral sea beds.

Klein has also highlighted other issues plaguing cruise ships, including reports of poor working conditions for crewmembers and health risks onboard cruise ships, such as recent reports of norovirus outbreaks.

While the Port of San Francisco has met their goal in creating “a terminal to meet modern ship and operational requirements of the cruise industry,” critics say more needs to be done to ensure the cruise industry itself protects passengers and the environment as more passengers embark on cruises to more destinations.

The Port doesn’t expect a dramatic increase in the number of cruise ships that dock in the city, which was about 70 this year, however, the Port does anticipate larger ships to arrive.

The terminal will host a grand opening celebration with an address by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Port officials at Pier 27 at noon on Sept. 25.

Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News

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