Carnival Cruises Slammed Over Gaps in Pollution-Control Data

The Carnival Fantasy cruise ship leaves PortMiami in Miami Beach, Fla., on June 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

MIAMI (CN) – Justice Department attorneys are pressing cruise giant Carnival to turn over more information on its pollution-control efforts in the wake of the company’s $20 million fine for violating probation in an illegal waste dumping case.

The government claims Carnival Corp. has not provided enough data to verify its compliance with a pollution-reduction plan from a 2016 criminal case over dumping of oil-contaminated waste from its Caribbean Princess ship.

Carnival’s subsidiary Princess Cruise Lines settled the 2016 charges, agreeing to pay $40 million and subject itself to long-term scrutiny from a court-appointed monitor.

This past July, the court found that Carnival violated its probation by discharging plastic in food waste in Bahamian waters, and by carrying out “ship visits” to prepare cruise staff for looming court-ordered audits. Carnival was further cited for not giving its compliance chief the authority needed to carry out the pollution-reduction plan, among other probation violations.

The cruise giant — which owns Costa, AIDA, Holland America and other popular cruise brands — agreed to pay another $20 million for the probation violations.

The company has since told the South Florida federal judge handling the case that it is taking concrete steps to comply with its end of the bargain.

“The company will make any necessary adjustments as it observes how the relationships among [its compliance] executives and the other members of Carnival’s senior management unfold in practice,” Carnival said.

One remedy, Carnival says, will be the installation of onboard “food digesters,” which will process Carnival ships’ food waste and help separate biodegradable material from plastic.

“Carnival is testing different types of food digesters and will rapidly install them once testing is complete,” the company told the court in a September filing.

The criminal case settlement directs Carnival to drastically reduce its food waste and consumption of non-recycled plastics aboard its ships.

In reports filed with the Southern District of Florida, the government is alleging that Carnival and its subsidiaries have not provided sufficient data on their ships’ waste output, information needed to ensure the company is actually reducing its environmental impact.

Department of Justice attorneys are specifically taking issue with Carnival not providing data on its ships’ consumption of plastic water bottles. The company has claimed the data is not relevant because most of those bottles are recycled.

According to the government, the cruise operator has also not provided assurances that the shoreside facilities where it dumps off waste are not simply depositing the trash back into the ocean.

Carnival claims that it vets shoreside waste processors. But the Justice Department says that some employees admitted in interviews that the company in reality has “no option to select or vet waste vendors in some countries.”

The Associated Press reported that government attorneys aired their grievances in a Wednesday hearing in the Southern District of Florida, attended by Carnival Chairman Micky Arison and CEO Arnold Donald.

“If we don’t look, we won’t know, and if we don’t know, we don’t care,” Justice Department attorney Richard Udell said, according to the AP report.

The government drew U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz’s attention to an illegal discharge of “grey water,” or wastewater without sewage, into Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park by a Holland America ship in 2018.

ABS Consulting, a company auditing Carnival as part of the criminal case settlement, said in its “year-two” review that “for the most part, Carnival Corporation has complied with the requirements” of the pollution-reduction plan.

ABS’s July 2019 report identified a handful of isolated violations, including instances where plastic was not filtered out of food waste from Carnival-operated vessels.

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