by Roger C. Kostmayer
Recent surveys show that Key West citizens are concerned about the biggest cruise ships with the worst health, safety, and environmental violations. The Key West Committee for Safer, Cleaner Ships was formed, and it filed referenda with the city to put three protective limits on cruise ships. Currently, the federal CDC (Center for Disease Control) is banning all cruise ships, at least until August, to help stem the spread of the Coronavirus. The danger of asymptomatic passengers transmitting this diseases in a small island with limited medical facilities is real, and the results would be devastating, both economically and in terms of human health and mortality.
In order to qualify to have the referenda on the August ballot, Key West citizens who were registered to vote here in 2018 need to sign more than 1600 petitions by June 1. The committee and its dauntless volunteers are on track to reach that goal, but they need help because it’s going to be close.
Key West has the legal authority to regulate the SIZE of ships, the maximum NUMBER of DISEMBARKEES per day, and to set ENVIRONMENTAL and PUBLIC HEALTH standards. Therefore, the referenda would limit the ships to those with less than 1300 passengers and crew; limit the total number of individuals allowed to disembark per day to 1500; and would give priority to those cruise lines with the best environmental and health records.
Yes, this quality control and safety plan could have some negative effect on some local jobs, but the overall favorable impact on the entire Key West community (health, lives, the environment, and the quality of life) is undeniable. There’s reason to believe that the fees and smaller number of more affluent tourists will actually be an economic improvement.
The window of opportunity closes on June 1, so signing the petitions and encouraging others to do the same at 720 Caroline St., is important – if you believe our future could be at stake.