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176 Concord Street, P.O. Box 22287, Charleston, SC 29413-2287
Contact: Erin Dhand, Manager, Corporate Communications and Community Affairs
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Charleston Investing in Cruise Future

Port to Purchase New Hydraulic Gangway, Prepares for 2011 Cruise Season

Historic Charleston, South Carolina - recently named to the number three spot on Travel + Leisure's Best Cities in the U.S. and Canada list - is investing heavily in its cruise facilities on the heels of launching its first year-round cruise calendar.

The South Carolina State Ports Authority (SCSPA), which owns and operates Charleston's cruise facility, approved today the purchase of a new, custom passenger loading bridge to safely transition cruise guests from the passenger terminal to the cruise ship's loading doors.

The new, state-of-the-art gangway will feature a hydraulic system to change the elevation and match up with doors on various ships. The SCSPA identified Sweden-based FMT Aircraft Gate Support Systems AB as the preferred vendor and will attempt to finalize a contract to design, construct and deliver a gangway that meets all current laws, regulations, codes and satisfies operating requirements. The gangway along with other improvements should be delivered in February at a cost not to exceed $2.75 million.

This investment comes as the Port of Charleston enters its first year-round cruise calendar and plans to build a new cruise terminal.

In May Carnival began year-round sailing and home-ported the Fantasy in the city. Carnival is operating five-, six- and seven-day voyages to The Bahamas and Key West, Florida and has announced a series of six sailings from Charleston to Bermuda in 2011.

In addition to the Carnival embarks, Charleston also features a number of port calls from others of the world's best-known cruise brands, including Holland America, Regent Seven Seas, Celebrity, Seabourn, Princess and Oceania. Charleston expects 67 embarks or port-of-calls this year and about 94 in 2011.

Charleston's location ideally serves a regional drive market including the Carolinas, Tennessee, Georgia and Virginia. Beyond the close-in resident, the city's position as one of the premier travel brands in all of North America means that its cruise market extends to a proven market of more than 33.5 million households.

In addition, the travel community got a big shot in the arm when Southwest announced it would begin service to Charleston in 2011, complimenting more than 110 existing daily flights between Charleston and 14 cities.

“Charleston has a unique blend of historical and natural characteristics, as well as geographic location, that make it a natural for both embarkation and port-of-call visits,” said Jim Newsome, president & CEO of the SCSPA.

Charleston is indeed an authentic American destination with European, Caribbean, and African influences. Charleston has been combining Southern charm and sophisticated grace since 1670, when the city was founded as a port town by the British.

At the same time, major efforts to revamp Charleston's cruise infrastructure are underway.

Charleston has initiated a major redevelopment of its cruise terminal and the surrounding area. The port is working to have a new world-class cruise facility operational by the 2012 cruise season, replacing its existing facility.

The SCSPA's plan, developed in conjunction with the community, is to shift its cruise operations north of the existing terminal. Charleston's new cruise terminal would remain in the heart of the historic district in a converted 151,200-square foot building with ample, adjacent surface parking.

This new terminal would remake Charleston's cruise operation, allowing both vessels and passengers to be handled much more efficiently and effectively. The Ports Authority plans to retain an architectural/design firm for the new terminal building and surrounding area shortly.

Cruising from the Port of Charleston is another reason why South Carolina is “Made for Vacation.”