ENVIRONMENT

Carnival Cruise Ships Continued To Discharge Waste While On Probation: Report

The cruise operator reportedly discharged over half a million gallons of pollution into the ocean after a court penalized it for past dumping.

A new report accuses Carnival Corporation of discharging more than half a million gallons of waste into the ocean during the first year of a five-year probation for previous dumping violations.

A court-appointed environmental monitor cited the cruise operator for committing more than 800 environmental violations from April 2017 to April 2018, according to the Miami Herald’s review of the court report on Tuesday.

Ships reportedly discharged treated sewage, oil, food waste and grey water, which is wastewater from sinks, showers, laundries and galleys. The report also cited more than 150 incidents in which furniture or other items accidentally went overboard and 19 incidents of burning heavy fuel oil in ports and water close to shores.

Carnival self-reported the incidents to authorities and described them as unintentional.

A judge has threatened to block Carnival ships from docking in U.S. ports because of ongoing environmental concerns.
A judge has threatened to block Carnival ships from docking in U.S. ports because of ongoing environmental concerns.

U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz, who ordered the release of the monitor’s initially confidential report, threatened last week to block Carnival ships from docking in U.S. ports because of ongoing environmental concerns.

The Miami-based company operates 105 ships that visit more than 700 destinations worldwide. Nine of Carnival Corp.’s cruise brands made up 47 percent of the cruise industry’s passengers last year, according to the Cruise Market Watch.

Carnival Corp.’s Princess Cruise Lines was ordered to pay $40 million in April 2017 for illegally dumping oil-contaminated waste and for falsifying records to conceal the discharge. That penalty is part of a five-year probation sentence that required Carnival Corp. to implement an environmental compliance plan, undergo independent audits by an outside company and receive oversight by a court-appointed monitor.

Seitz said last week that she will make a decision about imposing a port ban in June, but stressed that she hopes Carnival Corp. executives will take the environmental concerns seriously.

“The people at the top are treating this as a gnat,” Seitz said in court, according to the Herald. “If I could, I would give all the members of the executive committee a visit to the detention center for a couple of days. It’s amazing how that helps people come to focus on reality.”

Royal Princess, Princess Cruis Lines' newest and largest West Coast-based ship, off Los Angeles in March.
Royal Princess, Princess Cruis Lines' newest and largest West Coast-based ship, off Los Angeles in March.

In a statement to HuffPost on Wednesday, Carnival Corp. called the issues in the monitor’s report “unacceptable failures” but also noted that the report found the company had made improvements and corrections since the charges involving Princess Cruise Lines.

“The Company expended considerable efforts to meet the [probationary] Year One requirements, and has substantially complied with them,” the report states, according to a copy Carnival Corp. provided to HuffPost. “Numerous individuals ... have exhibited a strong commitment to creating a sustainable culture of environmental compliance.”

“We have been taking steps to address the improvement areas mentioned in the report, and to build on the positive progress noted by the court-appointed monitor to make sure we are in full compliance moving forward,” the company’s statement said. 

Cruise liners have long faced criticism over their effect on the environment, including air pollution and damage to reefs. Friends of the Earth, which advocates for stronger environmental laws and regulations for cruise ships, gave Carnival Cruise Lines a “D” rating in its 2016 report.

Of the 17 cruise lines rated, the only one that earned an “A” was the Disney Cruise Line. The rest received Cs, Ds or Fs.

A 2004 report by the Environmental Protection Agency found that cruise ships generate an average of 21,000 gallons of sewage per day, or 8.4 gallons per person. Since Carnival Corp. has a fleet of 105 ships, the Miami Herald pointed out that the amount it was dumping in 2017 is less than 1% of the sewage its fleet was generating annually.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misstated that Carnival accounted for 85% of global cruise passengers; it accounts for 47%. A subsequent version stated that nine Carnival ships carried those passengers; it should have referenced Carnival’s nine brands.

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