International cruise conference under way in SC

File Photo (WCIV)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - A conference under way in Charleston is dealing with the impacts of cruise ships on historic port communities worldwide.

The 3-day meeting is focusing on how to balance the benefits that cruises bring against their potential impacts of congestion and pollution. It's a debate that has been raging from Mobile, Ala., to Venice, Italy.

Some speakers said too many cruise passengers can weaken the tourism economies of historic port cities and discourage other tourists from visiting and staying in those towns.Speakers said Thursday that too many cruise ships can cause congestion and pollution making those destinations less attractive to visitors who fly or drive to those cities.About 100 people attending the conference were told tourists who stay in hotels and eat meals in local restaurants spend far more than cruise passengers who stay on and eat on ships.Charleston has been embroiled in controversy over the city's year-round cruise industry that has sparked lawsuits in both state and federal courts.

Organizers of the conference hope it will result in a series of guidelines to allow communities to handle cruises.

The conference is being sponsored by the World Monuments Fund, the Preservation Society of Charleston and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.