As Safer Cleaner Ships (SCS) seeks to convince the Key West City Commission to adopt SCS’s proposed cruise ship ordinances, which would bar almost all of our current cruise ship traffic from the port, our community needs to be made aware that SCS is providing “supporting” information and projections that simply bear no relationship to reality. 

The topics on which SCS has opined range from the control of infectious diseases, long-term environmental impacts, city and county economics, deep-water port operations and important legal advice. Each topic alone could keep a panel of experts engaged for months, though SCS apparently feels qualified to be the definitive voice on all of it.

My expertise lies in maritime issues. Upon reviewing the data SCS has provided the city commission concerning projected cruise ship arrivals and passenger counts in Key West under SCS’s proposed ordinances, I have found glaring inaccuracies so obvious they call into question all the information SCS has shared on the many impacts of these ordinances.

SCS’s proposed ordinances would allow ships no larger than 1,300 total persons (passengers and crew combined), with a combined daily disembarkation limit of 1,500 persons (passengers and crew combined). SCS “projects” 375,000 cruise ship visitors a year to Key West under their proposed ordinances, based on two ships calling on Key West 250 days per year.  This equals 500 cruise ship calls a year, which far exceeds the number of yearly cruise ship calls the port has experienced in recent history, as only 282 ships are currently scheduled for 2022. SCS’s projection has no basis in reality. Does SCS really want to see 218 more port calls per year in Key West than are currently scheduled for 2022? Of course not. Their projections are wildly unrealistic and deceptive.

I’m going to give you the straightforward facts that anyone can ascertain by simply referring to the actual city ship schedule for 2022 and comparing those vessels to SCS’s proposed ordinances.

Currently, there are 282 ships scheduled to call on Key West in 2022. Seventeen of them meet the requirements of SCS’s proposed ordinances; 265 do not. This means 94% of all scheduled ships in 2022 will be turned away from the port. 

On those 17 ships allowed into port, only 7,707 fortunate passengers will be able to visit Key West in 2022 — the lucky 1%. On the other hand, 99% of all other cruise ship passengers scheduled to visit Key West will be denied the right to visit our city.

From May through October, no ships scheduled to call in 2022 satisfy SCS’s proposed ordinances — translating to 188 consecutive days without a single ship in Key West. This is the schedule. This is the reality, not some projection pulled from thin air.

In the maritime industry, smaller ships are more exclusive ships that typically do not make regular weekly calls, year-round, to any single port. Instead, these vessels specialize in offering long exploratory voyages with numerous different ports on their itineraries. Very often we see a ship in this class calling on Key West just once a year as they pass by on an around-the-world extended voyage. The number of small ships calling into Key West over the years has stayed consistent. There is absolutely no reason to believe the current small-ship business model will radically change and reward Key West for its actions in all but closing down its port.

There will be no Field of Dreams “If you build it, they will come” moment. Key West will not be presented with fleets of small ships calling here 500 times a year, and everyone in the industry knows it. 

SCS’s claims that their proposed ordinances will not impose an excessive burden on continued cruise ship operations in Key West don’t even pass the laugh test. These proposed ordinances are in fact the definition of an “Excessive Burden on Commerce” and in no way can they honestly be called a compromise.

Sincerely, 

Capt. Robert Maguire

Key West Bar Pilots Assn.

If you would like to have the Weekly delivered to your mailbox or inbox along with our daily news blast, please subscribe here.