While Floridians may be focused on issues such as CRT or COVID-19 mandates, ship ports have consumed South Florida politics for over one year now. Now, the Key West Committee for Safer, Cleaner Ships is reporting "all-time highs" in economic success with fewer cruise ship traffic.
The Floridian obtained an exclusive interview with Evan Haskell from the Key West Committee for Safer, Cleaner Ships where we discussed the issues affecting the port in Key West.
"We put a citizens referendum together in 2020, November 2020, limiting the size of cruise ships hitting Key West and the total number of disembarkations to Key West per day. Those were passed overwhelmingly, there was a couple of other different items they passed, 60 to 80 percent," said Haskell. And then later on in the spring of last year, we were preempted by Tallahassee and the fight continues for us here at home to implement the will of our voters and protect our marine environment. That is our big issue. The cruise ships that have been coming over the last 20 years or so have just gotten bigger and bigger, and they draw too much water for our shallow entrance to our port."
Haskel continued, "So from starting out recline seven miles out, through the little skinny channel that they use to get into the port of Key West, they're just turning up the seafloor the whole way through and it's a disaster for our local ecosystem."
When asked if there would be an economic incentive to allow large cruise liners in the Keys, Haskell responded, "For a few private interests. There's certainly some very powerful players that want to see bigger ships, the bigger the ships the more money they get."
Surprisingly, the Key West native reported higher economic success for the local economy since strictly regulating cruise ship travel, "But over the last two years, we've seen none to recently very little cruise ship traffic and our economic numbers down here are through the roof, all-time highs."
"Everybody is making more money, sales tax through the roof, we've got more employment down here than ever before, all-time high on a number of jobs, and the economy is just really pumping down here for us right now," added Haskell.
Last legislative session brought this issue to a boiling point when members of the state legislature attempted to seize control of the ports so they could allow large cruise liners access to Key West. Safer, Cleaner Ships has long argued that this fails to compensate for the environment and small businesses in the Florida Keys.