Carnival Corp. Violates Environmental Laws, Even on Probation

CC BY 2.0. Wessel Blokzijl

The giant cruise company is supposed to be cleaning up its act, but continues to dump heavy fuel oil, sewage, and food overboard.

Carnival Corp. is the largest cruise company in the world, based out of Miami. It owns nine cruise brands and reported a profit of $3.2 billion in 2018. Unfortunately, such impressive profits come at a serious environmental cost. In 2016, Carnival pleaded guilty to "an eight-year-long 'conspiracy' of illegal oil dumping and subsequent cover-up on five of its Princess Cruise Line ships." It has been on probation ever since, but, as the Miami Herald reports, it continues to violate environmental laws.

800 Alleged Violations of Environmental Laws During Probation

A lengthy court report was released this week, describing Carnival's actions during its first two years of probation. It includes 800 incidents between April 2017 and April 2018. These were illegal dumping of sewage, food waste, greywater, and more than a half-million gallons of oil; burning heavy fuel oil in protected areas; and throwing items overboard, usually furniture. Carnival claims none of these incidents was intentional, and either reported or recorded all of them.

U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz is not happy about it. She released the previously confidential report, so that "the public can see what this criminal defendant is doing," and has said she regretted not being able to send Carnival's president and chairman to jail.

"Although Carnival Corp.’s convictions are not unique, the company’s pattern of repeated violations, even when it is under a microscope, show how difficult it is for authorities to hold cruise companies accountable. It also shows the difficulty of strict compliance across 105 ships, more than 120,000 employees, millions of guests and dozens of countries."

Astounding Violations

Cruise ships have notoriously poor environmental track records, but this report is a reminder of how bad it can get:

– More than 11,000 gallons of food waste and dozens of physical objects dropped into ports and waters close to shore in violation of international and domestic laws
– Unfiltered heavy fuel oil burned 19 times in protected areas for a total of 44 hours, in violation of international law, including 24 hours in a protected area off the coast of the North America
– More than 500,000 gallons of treated sewage dumped in Bahamian waters.

How these violations are 'unintentional' is hard to imagine; even if we give Carnival the benefit of the doubt, it demonstrates poor management and communication if such violations actually can occur unintentionally.

But it also speaks to the astounding volume of waste generated by such industrial-style tourism, moving hundreds of thousands of people across vast distances and invading once-pristine and sensitive places with enormous, polluting, trash-producing ships.

Carnival's CEO Arnold Donald said the company strives "to leave the places we touch even better than when we first arrived."

In the meantime, Judge Seitz will grill Donald at a hearing this June to determine whether Carnival's behavior merits a probation violation. At that point she'll decide, too, whether to follow through with her threat to block Carnival temporarily from docking any of its ships in U.S. ports.

You can access the report here, via the Miami Herald.