Strict environmental rules established for planned cruise ship terminal

A development company headed by former San Francisco 49ers owner Edie Debartolo may contract with The City to build a new cruise ship terminal at Piers 30 and 32. Regardless of who ends up landing the contract, the Port of San Francisco has developed some strict environmental standards for the project.

San Francisco’s cruise ship traffic has doubled in the last four years, according to Port project manager John Doll. This increase highlighted San Francisco’s need for an additional terminal that can receive the longer and deeper ships now transporting passengers to all corners of the globe.

The City’s primary cruise terminal at Pier 35 was built in 1914. Although it can handle the ships that now call on the port, it won’t be able to dock larger vessels.

The new terminal is slated to include two docks, measuring 1,000 and 825 feet, which will accommodate the next generation of cruise ships. One of those ships, the Queen Mary 2, is scheduled to visit San Francisco on February 7. She measures 1,132 feet long and will just barely fit into the present terminal at Pier 35.

In May, 24 cruise ships called on the Port of San Francisco. Half of those calls happened during a single week. According to port maritime director Peter Dailey, San Francisco is popular not only because of its proximity to cruising destinations such as Mexico and Alaska, but also because of its dry dock facility at pier 70. Many cruise ships stop here for maintenance between their winter and summer routes.

In structuring the new terminal project, the port needed to balance the increased cruise ship demand with major environmental concerns, including wastewater discharges and air pollution from the engines powering these “floating hotels,” Doll said Thursday.

To do that, industry representatives, regulatory agencies, labor unions and community representatives participated in an advisory committee that guided the port’s compliance with the environmental impact review and helped it obtain Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) permits.

Doll said wastewater from the ships’ plumbing systems, as well as ballast water, may contain invasive species picked up in far-off ports. The ships will be prohibited from dumping the water into San Francisco Bay, but will be able to flush it in case of an emergency into the sewer using a pipeline built into the new terminal. To cut down on air pollution from ships’ diesel motors, the terminal will likely include on-shore power transformers which ships would connect to through giant extension cords.

These measures have been found to be technically feasible, it is unclear yet whether they will all be economically viable, Doll said. That will be an issue for the developer.

amartin@examiner.comBay Area NewsLocal

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