A federal judge has threatened to temporarily block Carnival Corp. from docking cruise ships at ports in the United States as punishment for a possible probation violation. Carnival currently has three ships based at Port Canaveral: the Breeze, Liberty and Sunshine.
The Miami Herald reports that U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz said Wednesday that she will make a decision in June, and she wants company Chairman Micky Arison and President Donald Arnold to attend that hearing. “The people at the top are treating this as a gnat,” Seitz said. “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.”
Miami-based Carnival Cruise Line is the world's largest cruise line, with 26 ships. It has three new ships scheduled for delivery — Carnival Panorama in 2019, Carnival Mardi Gras in 2020 and an as-yet-unnamed ship in 2022. The Mardi Gras will be based at Port Canaveral, and will be Carnival's largest ship. The 180,000-ton “XL-class” ship will have a maximum capacity of 6,500 passengers and about 2,000 crew members. Port Canaveral is building a $163 million cruise terminal and parking garage complex for the MARDI GRAS, which will be the first North American-based cruise ship powered by liquefied natural gas. Steven Linden, Port Canaveral's director communications and public affairs, said the port "does not comment on operational issues of our cruise partners." The Breeze, Liberty and Sunshine had a total of 82 voyages from Port Canaveral in the first five months of the port's current budget year that began Oct. 1. In addition, six other ships affiliated with Carnival Corp. made a total of eight port-of-call stops at Port Canaveral during that time period.
Carnival has been on probation for two years as part of a $40 million settlement for illegally dumping oil into the ocean from its Princess Cruises ships and lying about the scheme, according to court filings. Despite this, prosecutors say ships have dumped gray water into Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park, prepared ships in advance of court-ordered audits to avoid unfavorable findings, falsified records and dumped plastic garbage into the ocean. The company has acknowledged these incidents in court filings.
In a statement, Carnival Chief Communications Officer Roger Frizzell said: “We heard the concerns expressed by Judge Seitz, and will do our utmost to ensure we meet all expectations under the environmental compliance plan and continue to strive to be best in class on environmental compliance. Our environmental responsibility has been and remains a top priority for the company. Our aspiration is to leave the places we touch even better than when we first arrived. This is in the best interest of our guests, our company and the oceans upon which we travel. We look forward to clarifying any issues and demonstrating our commitment."
The five-year probation began in April 2017, and requires a third-party auditor to inspect ships belonging to Carnival and its subsidiaries.
In all, Carnival owns nine cruise brands and has 102 ships. In addition to Carnival Cruise Line, Carnival Corp. brands include AIDA Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard, Holland America, P&O Cruises (Australia), P&O Cruises (UK), Princess Cruises and Seabourn.
There currently are no changes to the cruise schedules of any of Carnival's brands as a result of the judge's threat.
The court filings say that during 2017 Carnival had a program in place to prepare ships in advance of the audits to avoid negative findings. Seitz ordered the company to stop in December 2017, and it stopped. But federal prosecutors said the practice continued in 2018. Prosecutors said internal emails shared among Carnival’s subsidiaries discussed the practice. An email from Carnival’s German-based cruise line AIDA Cruises said, “It would be really important to go onboard on Aug. 12 for one week in order to have time to manage issues before the audits and avoid findings.” They said a similar email from Carnival’s Seattle-based Holland America Line mentioned “prevent audit findings” as a goal in early 2018.
The court filings said the monitor found that Carnival and its subsidiaries repeatedly falsified records, as recently as September 2018, when an engineer on Holland America’s Westerdam ship falsified maintenance records to make it appear he had cleaned and tested equipment when he had not. The same ship, according to court filings, dumped 26,000 gallons of gray water into Glacier Bay National Park in September 2018. Monitors also found that the Carnival Elation ship dumped plastic garbage overboard during an audit in December. The plastic wasn’t being separated from food, court filings said.
The judge on Wednesday mentioned a 45-minute presentation she received as a guest onboard Carnival Corp.’s ultra-luxury cruise line Seabourn about how plastic straws are damaging the marine environment. “I was thinking to myself, ‘I’m impressed,’ ” she said, “Obviously, they talk the talk, but they aren’t walking the walk.” Because this was a preliminary status conference — not a hearing — no actions or decisions were made, other than to continue talking to present the issues and potential solutions on both sides related to the environmental compliance plan.
Source : Florida Today