Why is a Savannah, GA Cruise Ship Terminal Project Being Kept Secret?

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Savannah RiverThe cruise industry has a tendency to keep matters hidden from the public, especially when it comes to passenger accidents, injuries and other acts of negligence, in order to avoid taking responsibility for incidents. When news of passenger injuries, disappearances and crimes on the high seas become public, cruise lines can lose their credibility and appeal. This is exactly what happened following the Costa Concordia capsizing accident back in January, 2012 and then again last February when the Carnival Triumph caught fire.

But now, it seems this trend in keeping the public shielded from the inner workings of the cruise industry has now spread to city officials in Savannah, GA, where plans for a new cruise ship terminal are in the works.

Savannah officials are discussing potential sites for a new terminal to be located somewhere along the Savannah River – where exactly has yet to be revealed. All we know as of right now is that a consultant reported on three different potential sites for the new terminal but city authorities have not given the public any information on what the potential locations may be, despite the fact that the report was funded by taxpaying residents.

However, Savannah officials contend that a provision regarding open record laws in Georgia dealing with land acquisitions allows them to keep the report private – at least for now. Allegedly, the report will be available for the public to view on June 25, following a Savannah City Council meeting, but if Savannah officials are anything like the cruise lines they are currently catering to, residents shouldn’t hold their breath for any revelations come the 25th.

The council commissioned BEA Architects right here in Miami to conduct the study of possible locations for the cruise terminal, which is divided into two phases. The first phase was completed back in September, the results of which were given to city officials recently and came with a hefty $197,500 price tag.  But comparing this cost to the revenue a brand new cruise terminal can bring in for Savannah, this is merely chump change.

Florida is currently home to the top cruise ports in the world, Miami and Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, and Georgia is certainly feeling the pressure to reap the benefits of the multibillion-dollar cruise industry. However, not everyone feels as though building a new terminal – and the money that will be spent on it – is a good idea.

Tom Bordeaux, a Savannah City Councilman, expressed his disapproval for the terminal, arguing that the city doesn’t really appeal to cruise travelers the way Miami or Fort Lauderdale would, for example. And with plenty of competing ports in Florida just miles away, including Jacksonville, Bordeaux doesn’t believe investing millions in the terminal would be a sound investment.

If the project turns out to be anything like the Charleston, South Carolina battle between environmental councils and port officials over how the cruise industry can cause pollution and disturbances in the city, then Savannah will have a long way to go before the cruise terminal will be welcomed with open arms.

But before anything can even happen, the city needs to get approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and then go through the lengthy process of obtaining permits. Hopefully Savannah will focus on port safety over anything else, especially in light of the several cruise ship accidents that have transpired in the past two years.

The last thing Georgia residents need is a new terminal that serves as a breeding grounds for accidents and injuries, but only time will tell if officials will ensure the safety and security of both potential cruise passengers and port workers.