While the city of Charleston South Carolina is resisting the expansion of the cruise industry into its city, the southernmost city of the U.S. may be heading in the other direction. Key West appears to be poised to accommodate bigger and more cruise ships, including the new mega ships the Allure and Oasis of the Seas.
The KeyNoter newspaper reports that Key West is considering widening the shipping channel into Key West Harbor, allowing for much larger cruise ships to port. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prepared a report about the dredging project which would cost $35 million.
There have been no report prepared yet regarding the environmental and economic impacts so far. A feasibility study would cost about $5.5 million.
The newspaper reports that next week, the Key West officials will invite the local residents to a meeting to hear from the Army Corps engineers, staff from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and the Key West City Commission.
The newspaper indicates that Key West has 350 cruise-ship visits per year, totaling about 800,000 annual passengers who pay a disembarkation fee. Key West’s population is only around 25,000.
The Key West Chamber of Commerce supports the dredging project which would widen the channel by 150 feet from 300 to 450 feet. The Key West environmental group Last Stand opposes it.
The article mentions that after the channel is widened, Key West could accommodate Royal Caribbean’s mega-ship Oasis of the Seas, which would bring up to 6,500 passengers and 2,000 crew to the city on a single visit.
The only question I would have if I lived in Key West is – why? Key West already has 800,000 tourists by cruise ship a year. Do you really need to spend $35,000,000 to widen the channel in order to squeeze mega ships like the Oasis into your little harbor?