Carnival ordered to pay $20 million criminal penalty

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Carnival ship at sea

By Caribbean News Now contributor

MIAMI, Florida — Carnival Corporation has reached a tentative settlement with federal prosecutors in which the world’s most extensive cruise line eagerly consented to pay a $20 million in fines for some of its ships persistently polluting the oceans notwithstanding vowing years ago to discontinue.

Senior US District Judge Patricia Seitz approved the settlement after Carnival Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Arnold Donald stood up in open court and acknowledged the company’s accountability for breaching probation which stems from Carnival’s prior environmental court case.

Arnold uttered, “The company pleads guilty,” six times in a full courtroom that included other senior Carnival executives, including Carnival Chairman Micky Arison, a billionaire who also owns the Miami Heat. “We acknowledge the shortcomings. I am here today to formulate a plan to fix them.” Arnold continued, “The proof will be in the pudding, won’t it?” Seitz responded. “If you all did not have the environment, you would have nothing to sell.”

The company admitted breaking conditions of its probation from a 2016 criminal conviction for its Princess Cruise Lines ships role in illegally dumping oily waste and concealing the crime. The cruise line paid a $40 million fine and was put on five years’ probation in that matter, which affected all nine of its cruise brands and 105 ships worldwide.

Now Carnival has admitted that in the years after its ships have committed environmental crimes such as dumping “grey water” in prohibited areas such as Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park and consciously permitting the plastic to be dumped along with food waste in The Bahamas, which poses a serious threat to marine life.

Carnival also admitted falsifying compliance records and other administrative breaches such as having clean-up teams visit its ships shortly before scheduled inspections.

The judge at a prior hearing threatened to ban Carnival from docking at US ports because of the violations and announced she might hold executives individually responsible for the probation breaches.

“The concern I have is that senior management has no skin in the game,” the judge declared, continuing that future infringements might be met with incarceration and criminal penalties for executives. “My goal is to have the defendant change its behaviour.”

Arison signed the proposed settlement in which Carnival vowed there would be further audits to monitor for infractions, a revamping of the cruise line’s compliance and training programs, a reliable system for reporting environmental crimes to state and federal agencies and enhanced waste management methods.

The settlement also would set September 13 and October 9 deadlines to produce a better compliance plan and make other adjustments, subject to penalties of $1 million daily if those deadlines are not met. If the second round of deadlines is not met, the penalties could soar up to $10 million each day.

Other recommended changes include a reduction by the company in the use of single-use plastic items across its whole fleet and production of “tiger teams” intended to make corrections in the cruise line’s food and beverage methods and how waste is managed at sea. The case is being turned over to US District Judge Ursula Ungaro, who jointly presided over Monday’s hearing with Seitz, who is retiring in a few months.

Three people who declared they were victims of Carnival’s environmental crimes attended the hearing. Their lawyer, Knoll Lowney, displayed doubt that the company will honour its commitment this time. “Time and time again, Carnival has shown its contempt of environmental laws and the rule of law,” he declared. “Here we are again.”

As widely reported, Carnival’s cruise ships illegally dumped more than 500,000 gallons of treated sewage and 11,000 gallons of food waste mixed with aluminium, plastics and other physical objects into the sea throughout its first year on probation. The bulk of the illegal dumping took place in the waters of The Bahamas.

The Court so far has authorised the filing of only court-appointed monitors to report concerning Carnival’s first year of pollution. The 2018-2019 report unquestionably reveals further illegal discharges and pollution violations.

The Bahamas, near Miami is a flag state where hundreds of cruise ships are registered. The bulk of cruise ships owned by Royal Caribbean fly the flag of the Bahamas to avoid US income taxes as well as wage/labour law and safety regulations of the US. The Bahamas, in essence, has no means in place to require compliance with international pollution laws when vessels flying the flag of The Bahamas pollute the waters of The Bahamas.

The cruise line flags at least five of its vessels in The Bahamas, including the Carnival Sensation, Carnival Inspiration, Carnival Imagination, Carnival Triumph and Carnival Fascination. (The majority of the Carnival-owned ship such as the Carnival Conquest and the Carnival Elation stated above are registered in Panama so that the company can avoid US taxes, safety regulations and labour laws. Similar to The Bahamas, Panama has a slight concern in requiring compliance with international pollution regulations such as maritime pollution or MARPOL).

As Carnival proceeds to complete the cruise port in Grand Bahama, it’s noted that the US federal district judge in Miami presiding over the pollution case called Carnival a “recidivist criminal” which has been involved in worldwide pollution and repeatedly lied about it.

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