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Key West Could Ban Large Cruise Ships

by SharonKurheg

Key West has put a referendum on its November ballot that would limit the size of cruise ships that could call on the city’s port.

In the month since the coronavirus pandemic began, a group of Key West citizens formed the Key West Committee for Cleaner, Safer Ships. Their goal is to decrease the size and number of ships that are allowed to visit Key West each year. In turn, they say it would help decrease the spread of coronavirus on the island, as well as to help with the negative environment impact of cruise ships.

The organization did a case study, which pointed out:

Cruise ships are a risk to public health:

  • Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found cruise ship-linked cases of Covid-19 accounted for 17% all known cases in the U.S. during February and March.

  • 12% of all Covid-19 cases in Australia came from a single cruise ship, Carnival’s Ruby Princess.

  • Key West now allows more than 390 cruise ships every year, over 10,000 passengers and crew per day, for a total of more than 1.2 million people annually.

  • Lower Keys Medical Center is licensed for only 176 beds, and maintains only 7 ICU beds

Cruise ships threaten the environment:

  • Cruise ships are 1% of global shipping but generate 25% of all waste.

  • Cruise ships create silt clouds around the area’s reef that threaten the survival of juvenile corals.

  • Carnival was fined $40 million for dumping plastics and oily discharges in 2016 and put on probation. They violated probation by falsifying records and were fined an additional $20 million in 2019.

  • More than 130 Carnival ships docked in Key West in 2019, carrying over 450,000 people.

Cruise ships puts Key West’s economy in jeopardy:

  • More than 50% of Americans say they will avoid crowded destinations until the Covid-19 threat is resolved.

  • “More” cruise ships are no longer “better” in Key West. One cruise ship-imported infection can destroy an entire tourist season for Key West, and permanently damage their safe tourism brand.

  • Cruise ship passengers make up 50% of all tourists in Key West but only 8% of all tourist spending.

  • Cruise ship passengers spend an average of only $32 in Key West vs. $550 by all other tourists. It takes 17 cruise ship passengers to match the spending 1 non-cruise tourist.

Three proposed amendments on the ballot would:

  • Limit the number of passengers disembarking from cruise ships to a total of 1500 people per day
  • Restrict the size of ships that can dock on the island to those with a capacity of no more than 1300 people
  • prioritize ships with “better” environmental and public health records

Not even the smallest of the major cruise lines’ ships would “fit” the proposed numbers the referendum is calling for. For example, Royal Caribbean’s smallest ship, Empress of The Seas, can hold 1,840 passengers. The Carnival Fascination holds 2,634. The Disney Magic can accommodate 2,713.

Of course, the issue is divisive and pits business owners and employees, who depend on passengers’ claimed $32 each, against those who are more concerned about the environment and the health and safety of the island’s people.

I guess we’ll see what happens when they vote in November.

Feature Photo: Common Domain

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


g-flyer July 17, 2020 - 4:44 pm

I grew up in South Florida, and fondly remember Key West before it became a major cruise port. It was a quirky little place, with a lot of character, and even more characters. When the big boats started coming – mid-1990s, I think, change was quick and unforgiving. Rents went up, and everything became a bit more like everywhere else. I rather miss the old community, and hope very much that this referendum passes, as I suspect it will.

Christian July 17, 2020 - 5:51 pm

+1. It’s sad to see the changes that have occurred over the years in Key West.

Denise July 19, 2020 - 7:27 am

I understand key west dilemma perhaps limiting the ship size so not too many ships stop.there is ok. That was my first cruise ever a stop in key west. Ww fell in Love with that little town and try o get back every couple of years. If it were not for that cruise is would not have known about all the fun beautiful things key west has to offer.

Renee Scattergood July 23, 2020 - 1:09 pm

I also discovered Key West via a cruise ship. I can promise you I spend lots of money there that day. We’ve also since, went back numerous times on our own. Maybe they would be better served to say like 1500 tourist at a time off the ships. Not stop them entirely. Just a thought.


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