Thanks to The Keys Weekly for your excellent coverage of cruise ships in the Keys. I am writing to dispute the assertions of John Wells on Sept. 16 against our Mayor Teri Johnston and the work done by Safer Cleaner Ships. He accuses her of being a mere “mouthpiece” for the “all false . . . lies and misinformation” of SCS.

Wells also says she has “anti-cruise ship prejudice.” In fact, it is Mr. Wells who exhibits a vitriolic prejudice full of the real “false lies” concerning the development of the widely supported ordinance we the people, through our commissioners and city attorney, are crafting to limit the harmful effects we accurately believe cruise ships have on our environment and town.

First, Mr. Wells attacks the mayor and SCS for providing a list of questions for our able City Attorney Shawn Smith to ask any potential outside legal adviser he and our commissioners would choose to hire as his assistant. These are eminently sensible questions, e.g., whether the potential adviser has “an existing legal relationship” with any of the three “bar pilots associations” benefiting from the cruise ships. Mr. Wells does not object to a single one of the 15 sensible questions. His fellow supporters could submit a similar set of questions, and Mr. Smith could make as much use, if any, of them as he wishes. Note the hard-working SCS committee is again acting to help our whole community, for free, with no financial benefits even remotely to be gained. Also note that Mr. Wells, in his honestly admitted profit-making position as a “Ship’s Agent,” is making no such helpful efforts on our behalf, but rather focuses his energy on denigrating those who are trying to help us all, just in order to protect the very high salaries and dividends of the small number who benefit the most from ever-more cruise ships.

Mr. Wells then compares SCS to Hitler — literally, not by name, but as the “Chancellor of Germany” — for spreading “lies … not one (of which) has withstood close scrutiny nor scientific review.”  In fact, the information the commissioners formally REQUESTED on turbidity and public health dangers is, unlike Mr. Wells’ group’s accusations, supported by 11 peer-reviewed scientific studies detailing the degradation of water quality and dangers of infectious diseases — COVID and the flu — presented by cruise ships. These scientific publications have appeared over the past 21 years, not just yesterday, so if even a single one of them had not “withstood close scrutiny nor scientific review,” cruise ship supporters have had plenty of time to critique them. 

Instead, the pro-cruise ship industry has not a single scientific objection to the wealth of damning studies of their ill effects. Instead, they just have Mr. Wells calling such work the product of “corrupted … malevolent intent.” Mr. Wells, for shame. We should be thanking our attorney and commissioners for withstanding these continuing attacks by business interests whose only goal is to make windfall profits at the expense of our environment and public health. That is the bold leadership we need and are in fact getting from them.


Rick Boettger

Avid cruiser who bought a home in Key West in part because cruise ships always stop at the best towns, but who came to see with his own eyes the damage done by them to his favorite snorkel spots here, in St. Thomas, and around Turks and Caicos.