Climate activists upset with what they called the Port of Seattle’s “deal with the devil” to put a new cruise ship terminal near Pioneer Square staged a quiet act of resistance at a cruise industry event Wednesday.
During an opening panel, where cruise line executives spoke glowingly about the potential for more passenger flow through Seattle, about 10 people affiliated with the groups 350 Seattle and Stand.earth rose from the crowd, donned ventilator masks and took off their jackets to reveal t-shirts with the slogan, “Carnival’s Pollution: Bad for Business.”
The Carnival executive speaking seemed unruffled.
Miami-based Carnival is a member of one of three consortiums bidding on the contract to develop and manage the new cruise terminal at Terminal 46, just south of Pioneer Square.
The company pled guilty in 2017 to seven felonies related to its dumping of oily waste products into oceans. It was fined $40 million, at the time the largest environmental penalty ever.
This summer, a federal judge in Florida ruled the company still was not complying with anti-dumping provisions and fined it an additional $20 million.
Port officials said they were prepared for protest at the conference, which was dedicated to helping local vendors get a slice of what the Port says is the cruise industry’s $900 million annual economic impact on the Seattle area.
Outside, roughly a dozen climate activists — including some dressed as polar bears and dolphins — held signs lambasting Carnival as they chanted and passed out flyers.
Cruise ships are heavy emitters of carbon dioxide, the cause of climate change. And because cruising is widely seen as a discretionary activity, it’s become a target for climate activists who point out that motoring up to see Alaskan glaciers is making those glaciers melt.
“We need to make sure we’re not harming the places we want to go see, because they’re so beautiful,” said 350 Seattle organizer Stacy Oaks at the protest.
Port Commissioner Fred Felleman, who won re-election Tuesday on a platform of sustainability, said in an interview that “we’re going to do the best we can” to mitigate the environmental impact of the new cruise terminal.
The new cruise terminal project is currently undergoing environmental review. In addition to the Port, city, state and federal agencies will need to review the cruise terminal’s effect on issues including downtown traffic and Elliott Bay water quality for construction to proceed.
Terminal 46 operated for decades as a cargo offloading terminal for large container ships.
In April, the Port agreed to rent the northern part of Terminal 46 from the Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA), a joint venture between the Seattle and Tacoma ports that jointly manages cargo terminals in both cities.
The rental arrangement was part of a package of agreements that eased the way for a $500 million facelift at Terminal 5, in West Seattle, to handle larger cargo vessels.
The Port said it also needed the extra cruise berth to cope with increased demand for Alaska voyages, the focus of Seattle’s cruise market.
At the conference, cruise line executives said they hoped to send even more ships to Alaska, including by extending the season. Capacity at the Port’s three current cruise berths — two at Terminal 91 and one at Terminal 66 — is already strained during the summer.
The rest of Terminal 46 will remain an area for smaller cargo vessels to load and offload goods.
But it’s unclear how viable that plan is. Last week, the NWSA announced it had extended the deadline for proposals to manage the cargo portion of T46, after receiving only three bids.
Even when the plan was under discussion earlier this year, some port commissioners said they were skeptical there’s enough demand to justify siting a cargo berth at Terminal 46.
“I’m vitally concerned about how much space we can really fill up from a working waterfront scenario,” said Tacoma Port Commissioner Don Meyer at an April NWSA meeting. “Why are we messing around with that scenario? Why not get realistic about what’s the long-term play here?”
In other words, more cruise ships.