Princess Cruises Pollution Cover-Up: What Did the Executives Know?

The $40,000,000 fine levied against Princess Cruises last week raises the issue of what cruise executives knew about the illegal dumping of oil-contaminated waste from the Caribbean Princess cruise ship and the other illegal practices which took place on the Star Princess, Grand Princess, Coral Princess and Golden Princess.

As the Department of Justice (DOJ) points out, this is not an isolated case involving a rogue ship employee. The criminal misconduct  took place for eight years from 2005 to 2013 (involving the Caribbean Princess) and involved several other cruise ships as well. According to the DOJ, the illegal conduct included not only the "magic pipe" to circumvent the oily water separator on the Caribbean Princess but involved other other illegal practices on the Caribbean Princess as well the Star Princess,Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess Grand Princess, Coral Princess and Golden Princess.

The DOJ suggested that the pollution crimes committed by Princess were motivated by avoiding the costs associated with properly offloading the oily waste in port. The DOJ says that subordinate engineers on the Caribbean Princess nicknamed the chief engineer (responsible for using the "magic pipe" to discharge oily waste in August of 2013) “braccino corto” (a person with short arms), which the DOJ explained is "an Italian expression for a cheap person whose arms are too short to reach his wallet."

According to the DOJ, some Princess engineers expressed the same opinion of the Princess shore-side superintendent.

Princess Cruises' reaction to the DOJ charges seems designed to isolate its shore-side managers and executives from direct responsibility. Although it admitted that its ship employees' conduct was "inexcusable," and that its oversight was "inadequate," it denied that its management in its headquarters knew anything illegal was occurring before August 2013.

Gauging from comments on social media, the public seems skeptical.  

Consider some of the comments to the Miami Herald article Carnival-Owned Ship Caught in Pollution Scheme. Now They’re Paying $40 Million for It:

"Of course management knew. Why would a lowly worker come up with this idea? He could care less because he gets paid the same whether or not they follow regulations. Corporate wanted to save time and money . . . "

"Typical cutting corners to increase profits while exploiting foreign workers who work for paupers wages."

Similar comments were posted by readers of USA TODAY's article Princess Cruises to Plead Guilty to Polluting Ocean:

"Something this significant, all top executives had to have known. It takes money and time to dispose of waste. Were there no questions when time was dramatically saved and cost of waste management decreased drastically? Come on...."

A reader of our Facebook page commented:

"Financial penalties like this are a drop in the ocean for a company the size of Carnival; but does anyone up the chain get jail time? I work in the cruise industry, and I (we) don't need arrogant (executives) who are looking for their next bonus for "cost savings" thinking that international waters are their big dumping ground."

The purpose of an illegal "magic pipe" is to save costs.  Pursuant to international requirements, oily bilge water from a cruise ship must be treated to the point that the oil content is below 15 parts per million before it is can be discharged into the ocean. The oil-water separators (OWS) are expensive to maintain and operate. The oil that is separated from the bilge water must be stored and then offloaded from the ship onto barges or pumped ashore to be incinerated at licensed facilities. But the "magical pipe" avoids the costs associated with maintaining the OWS and removing and disposing of the waste products.  

Like other cruise lines, Carnival Corporation places considerable pressure on all its brands to reduce costs. The costs associated with the operation of a ship are carefully scrutinized and analyzed from ship to ship. A significant variation in costs between a ship offloading and disposing oil compared to a ship dumping oil at sea via a "magic pipe" should be readily observed by any corporation. It is doubtful that the low waste disposal costs of the Caribbean Princess, compared to a ship with a functioning oil water separator (OWS), didn't come to the attention of the shore-side managers as well as those in the company and parent corporation who audit the costs of operating the cruise line's fleet of cruise ships. My opinion is that someone on the corporate side probably knew what was really happening on one of the company's $500 million ships, or perhaps they turned a blind eye toward the monkey business. 

The closest that the DOJ will come to holding the cruise executives responsible is saying that the illegal discharge "was the result of more than just bad actors on one ship. It reflects very poorly on Princess’s culture and management."

This slap on the wrist ignores the fact that when the Caribbean Princess started its eight years of discharging oily wastes into the oceans, Carnival was still on probation following a fine of $18,000,000. In 2002, as part of its felony plea agreement, Carnival and its "subsidiaries and operating companies" were required to undertake a five year court-supervised environmental program involving every "cruise ship and shoreline facility in the U.S. and abroad." Carnival was required to " . . . hire new personnel and managers, whose sole responsibilities . . . [were] to ensure compliance with local, state, federal and international environmental requirements . . . (and) subject their operation to an independent auditor, approved by the government." 

Princess Cruises was not yet owned by Carnival in 2002 but Carnival took ownership and control of Princess Cruises the following year. It is less than clear whether Carnival took steps to ensure that Carnival-owned ships operated by its subsidiary Princess Cruises complied with the 2002 consent agreement with the DOJ after Princess Cruises came under Carnival's control in 2003 when Carnival was beginning the DOJ probation period. Regardless, shortly after it started service, the Caribbean Princess began a course of criminal conduct until 2013 which would make the ship's engineers the poster-children of maritime environmental criminals.   

Is the public really expected to believe that the executives at Carnival or Princess didn't know anything about the cost-saving criminal conduct over the course of nearly a decade?

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Some people people have suggested that president Jan Swartz should resign but she was not the executive at the helm of Princess during the 2005 - 2013 time period. She worked for Princess as a vice president in sales, marketing, business development and customer service for some of the years in question before leaving the cruise line. She returned to Princess as the top CEO in December 2013, replacing President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Alan Buckelew who had been the Chief Executive Officer of Princess Cruises from June 2007 to November 2013 and its President from February 2004 to November 2013, as well as the Chief Operating Officer of Carnival since December 1, 2013.  Perhaps Swartz's return to the cruise line was part of the reshuffling that took place after the illegal "magic pipe" was reported to the U.K. Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) a few month earlier?  

Photo Credit: Caribbean Princess in the Caribbean heading for Miami - Cruiser1210 - CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

You can read our first article about the DOJ fines here: Deliberate Dumping, Cover-Up and Lies: DOJ Fines Princess Cruises $40,000,000.

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Brazil Fines MSC Cruises R$2,505,000 for Dumping Bags of Garbage

The Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente E Dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources) (IBAMA) levied a fine of R$ 2.505 million against MSC Cruises.

Based on today's exchange rate, the fine is approximately $635,545 in U.S. dollars.

IBAMA said that MSC Cruises released garbage into the sea during a cruise between Madeira Island and MSC Garbage Dumpingthe Port of Recife.

The complaint of the environmental crime was made by one of the ship's passengers who was on board the MSC ship during a cruise between November 26 to December 10, 2013.

I previously wrote about the crime in an article dated December 2013 titled Video: MSC Cruise Ship Dumps Garbage Bags Off Coast of Brazil.

I later posted an article and showed videos of the illegal dumping from the Magnifica sent to me by a crew member on the MSC cruise ship.

It appears that the fine was issued in 2014 after IBAMA viewed video and photographs and listened to testimony, but the fine was not immediately disclosed to the public.

You can see photographs of the dumping here

MSC later touted itself an a steward of the seas.

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

  

  

 

"F" for Transparency: Cruise Lines Refuse to Release Environmental Practices

The Friends of the Earth (FOE) non-profit organization just released its "Cruise Ship Report Card" for 2014. In a press release, the FOE states that "cruise ships dumped more than a billion gallons of sewage in the ocean this year, much of it raw or poorly treated . . " 

The amount of raw sewage discharged from cruise ships is truly staggering. Cruise ships are permitted to dump untreated raw fecal matter directly into the ocean, just three miles or more from shore.

For anyone who knows the cruise industry's dismal environmental record, the fact that cruise ships dump raw sewage from the bowels of its ships is hardly new. But what's remarkable this year is that the entire cruise industry - through its trade organization Cruise Line International Organization (CLIA) - Cruise Ship Pollutionrefused to respond to Friends of the Earth’s requests for information on pollution-reduction technologies. The FOE believes that the cruise industry is trying to stifle scrutiny of dirty cruise ship environmental practices

The Good News

The FOE ranked Disney Cruise Line, a/k/a Magical Cruise Company, as the most environmentally responsible line, earning an "A" for sewage treatment.

The Bad News

The worst offender is Carnival Cruise Line by a long shot. Carnival has the world's largest fleet of 24 cruise ships but, according to the FOE, only two ships with advanced sewage treatment technology. It earned an "F" for sewage treatment again this year.

According to the FOE, "over 40 percent of the 167 ships in operation still operate using waste treatment technology that’s more than 35 years old."

The Sad News

The FOE also grades cruise ships for air pollution. Unfortunately, most cruise lines burn filthy high-sulfur fuels including nasty bunker fuels. According to the EPA, each day an average cruise ship is at sea it emits more sulfur dioxide than 13 million cars and more soot than 1 million cars.  

You can see a copy of the report here.

Earlier this year, we published videos of MSC crew members dumping bags of plastic and oily discharge into a marine sanctuary from a cruise ship.  Many crew members state that this is common practice at night. The FOE gave MSC an "F."

All cruise lines received an "F" for their lack of transparency.

Crystal: A Cruise Line with a Conscience? Try Again.

The headline in the Asbury Park Press stunned me - "Crystal: A luxury cruise line with a conscience."  

Surely this must be a joke I thought, given Crystal's dreadful environmental record of polluting the oceans and air.

But the article was serious. it talked about Crystal donating used furniture to a "Spanish organization that supports recovering addicts." It mentioned that it turned the guests' used toiletries into soap for Crystal Symphony Cruise Ship"800 impoverished families" over three years. It "contributed goods to charities in Africa." 

The article also mentioned that Crystal is refurbishing the staterooms aboard the Serenity later this year to install purification equipment, "creating the industry’s first hypoallergenic cabins for passengers with allergies and/or respiratory ills."

But neither the Serenity nor the Symphony have installed advanced sewage treatment systems, resulting in a grade of "F" for the company’s zero percent sewage treatment score. The Crystal cruise ships also burn dirty fuel, including burning cancer-causing sulphur fuel in port because Crystal has not invested in shore-side power hook-ups. Friends of the Earth has consistently awarded Crystal "F's" in how this cruise line treats the water and air.

In the eyes of environmentalists, Crystal is best known for an incident in 2003 when a Crystal ship dumped around 35,000 gallons of grey water, sewage, and bilge water in a marine sanctuary in Monterey Bay. It had promised earlier not to foul the marine sanctuary's waters.

According to the L.A. Times, Crystal Cruises said didn't have to report the incident to authorities because it broke no laws. It is "perfectly legal" under maritime laws to discharge even untreated wastewater more than 12 miles offshore, and the ship was 14 miles offshore at the time, said Crystal spokeswoman Mimi Weisband.

"We didn't break any law," Weisband said. "We did break a promise."

The city of Monterey thereafter banned all Crystal cruise ships for life.

When the Friends of the Earth gave Crystal Cruises an "F," Cruise spokesperson Weisband responded by saying that Crystal Cruises "deserved an A ... if not an A+."

The elite Conde Nast Traveler cruisers may consistently vote Crystal the "world’s best cruise line," but its the one cruise line that has never exhibited an environmental conscience. 

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia Creative Commons 3.0

Friends of the Earth Sue EPA Over Cruise & Cargo Ship Sewage

Yesterday the Friends of the Earth (FOE) filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington D.C. against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in an effort to force the federal agency to regulate sewage discharges from cruise ships and other vessels in U.S. waters.

As the Palm Beach Post points out, cruise ships alone dumped more than one billion gallons of sewage in the ocean last year. And much of what cruise ships discharge is poorly treated.

The FOE stated: "Cruise ships with populations the size of small towns ply the waters off our coasts and massive cargo ships carrying goods to our ports produce and then dump large amounts of partially Cruise Pollution treated sewage and other wastes into our oceans. 

“The EPA is required under the Clean Water Act to protect people who swim, boat, and fish in waters affected by ship sewage discharges. Modern sewage treatment options are available for relatively low cost, but EPA hasn’t updated it regulations to reflect those advances since 1976. As a result, ships can dump bacteria-laden wastewater in some of our most valuable waters."

You can read the lawsuit here.

As we have mentioned in the past, the FOE "grades" the cruise lines for their treatment of the environment. Last year, the FOE report card contained F's for Costa, Crystal, MSC and P&O. Royal Caribbean received a C and Carnival received a C-.  Disney received an A.

Here's how the cruise lines have treated the planet over the last few years:

Enemies of the Environment? Costa, Crystal & P&O Cruises Flunk Cruise Ship Environmental Report Card, While Carnival & Royal Caribbean Receive "D+" (2012)

Cruise Ships Turn British Columbia Waters into "Toilet Bowel of Raw Sewage" (2010)

New Report Details Cruise Industry's Record of Pollution (2009)

The cruise industry claims that it is the "guardian of the seas." But this year we posted videos of MSC Cruises dumping garbage bags and plastic materials into the waters of Brazil.

 

Image credit: Cruise Ship Cartoon Shields via earthisland.org and Campaign to Safeguard America's Waterways 

Swiss Newspaper Covers the MSC Garbage Dumping Story

Today, a newspaper in Switzerland joined in the coverage of the story regarding the alleged dumping of garbage bags from the MSC Cruises Magnifica cruise ship.

Le Matin, the largest French-speaking newspaper in Switzerland, published the headline:

Des ordures jetées à la mer! — Vidéo à l’appui, un avocat affirme que la compagnie italo-suisse MSC Croisières jette des poubelles dans l’océan.   

MSC Cruises Garbage DumpingYou can read the article here.

Here are some of the comments to the article:

And one company in my black boycott list . . 

Hello in the late 80's I worked as a Chef on the Apollo Cruise Company based in Miami several times late at night I saw my eyes pour entire containers full Gulf of Mexico and offshore Brazil .. unfortunately .. I'm not surprised that 35 years later this terrible way "to do" is still in force .. Greenpeace .. Help!

Having traveled with MSC, and having followed the recommendations for "environmental protection" (reuse towels, etc..), When I see these images it disgusts me!

You can read the comments here.

So far, the story has received substantial international news coverage: New Times (U.S.A.), Cruise Hive (U.S.A.), Huffington Post (U.S.A.), Daily Mail (U.K.), AOL Travel  (U.K.), Cruising the Molly Way (U.K.), e Global Travel Media (Australia & New Zealand) and Le Matin (Switzerland).

The travel industry publication (Travel Weekly, Travel Pulse), and the cruise bloggers (Cruise Critic, Cruise Currents, Cruise Fever, Cruise Mates, Cruise Addicts, Captain Greybeard) have all stuck their heads in the sand. None of these types want to rock the boat and become blacklisted from the cruise lines' parties and free cruises. 

The cruise industry just finished their self-laudatory Cruise Shipping Miami trade show.  The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) and the CLIA CEO, Ms. Duffy, have not said a peep about the environmental abuse. The "One Industry, One Voice" cruise industry and its loyal-to-a-fault travel agent base are going to stay quiet and let this stinky story fade away.  

Photo Credit: Daily Mail

 

MSC Cruises Garbage Dumping Story Goes Viral

Two weeks ago we posted videos and photos of garbage and debris and crew members aboard MSC cruise ships apparently throwing the refuse into the ocean.  We first asked MSC Cruises for an explanation but were ignored. You can see the videos here and here and the photos here.

This weekend the story went viral.

First the Huffington Post posted an article Cruise Ship Workers Appear To Throw Bags Of Garbage Right Into The Ocean (VIDEO).

Then the U.K.'s Daily Mail posted an article Caught on Camera: The Moment Cruise Ship Crew Member Hurled Garbage Bags Straight into the Ocean Off Brazilian Coast in Violation of International MSC Cruises Cruise bags of GarbageLaw.  The Daily Mail has the largest number of internet readers of a newspaper in the world.

Today AOL Travel also covered the story Cruise Ship Worker Filmed 'Throwing Rubbish Bags Into Ocean' (Video).

The articles are being widely shared on Facebook and re-tweeted on Twitter.

MSC has continued to ignore us for the past two weeks, but tells the Huffington Post that the videos show nothing more than a single dumping video taken by a passenger last December. MSC says there is only one alleged incident.

I say rubbish to that. Former crew members we have spoken with tell us of systematic illegal dumping of prohibited items in prohibited area on numerous occasions. You can read our thoughts here.

As the dumping videos go viral, all of the usually talkative cruise and travel agents, writers, and bloggers promoting the cruise industry remain silent. 

Huffington Post Covers MSC Cruises Garbage Dumping Story

Today the Huffington Post covered the story we posted 10 days ago about MSC Cruises crew members throwing black bags overboard from the MSC Magnifica cruise ship into the water. 

MSC says there is nothing new shown in the photos and three videos we posted because they are just a different angle of an incident reported by a passenger last December.

I say hogwash to that.  The video taken by the passenger seems to show garbage bags thrown from the port side of the cruise ship; whereas, the videos taken by the crew member shows the garbage MSC Cruises Magnifica Cruise Ship Dumpingbags thrown from the stern.

Also, if you look at all three articles we posted, you will note that the piles of debris which the former crew members say were pitched overboard involved at least two different incidents from different MSC cruise ships at different times into different waters. 

The large pile of broken down pallets from the MSC Magnifica were reported thrown into Brazilian waters in November / December 2013. The pile of pallets from the MSC Poesia were reportedly thrown into the waters between Florida and Mexico in January 2013.  The crew members we spoke to said that this type of debris was systematically dumped overboard at least once a week while the ships were underway at night.

The former crew members also told us that the dumping of garbage bags were far from a single event from one single cruise ship. They have sent us many photographs of this practice, including incidents where bales of cardboard, plastic and debris wrapped in clear plastics were stacked from floor to ceiling and and then thrown into the sea (see photo above right).

It is not surprising to us that MSC Cruises has never responded to our requests for information. The cruise line refuses to inform us of the identity of the Brazilian authorities who are investigating these incidents. MSC may be trying to  keep the former crew members, who know that the practice is more widespread than MSC will admit, from talking to the authorities.

Is Illegal Dumping of Garbage Widespread on MSC Cruise Ships?

MSC Poesia Cruise ShipThis week we published videos and photographs from a former MSC Cruises employee which show garbage being thrown by men wearing MSC blue jumpsuits out a large porthole on a mooring deck. The former crew member identified the cruise ship as the MSC Magnifica. 

You can see some of the videos here and here. You can see some of the photos here.

In response to these articles, we have been contacted by other former MSC employees who have sent us additional information and photos which they contend show garbage and other items being dumped from other MSC cruise ships.

One set of photos which struck me showed a pile of disassembled wooden pallets which had been stacked in the middle of the mooring area aboard a cruise ship. The former employee indicated that this occurred aboard the MSC Poesia. The photo is very similar to other photos we published of pieces of wooden pallets stacked in the mooring deck of the MSC Magnifica.

No garbage or debris should be stored or stacked in this area of the ship because it is a work place where the mooring lines are operated when the ships reach port.  

The former employee explained that the pieces of wood from pallets or crates would be stacked here after the pallets / crates would be broken down to be discarded. The top photo, he explained, was taken at 11:00 PM and shows the pieces of wood ready to be discarded.  He further explained that at night, the crew members would open the grates and thrown the wood through the large portholes into the water. The bottom photo, he says, shows the same area at 7:00 AM the next morning with the wood removed before the ship reached port.

The question arises how often does this type of alleged dumping take place? Are we to believe that the environmental and safety officers and staff captain did not know that wood was being stacked like this in the mooring area in the evening and would disappear by the next morning? Mooring decks are usually secured with access permitted only for deck, engine or security personnel.

Stacking wood like this is also a fire hazard.

If you were a crew member aboard a MSC cruise ship and know of the method how the cruise line discards garbage and refuse, please contact me at jim@cruiselaw.com 

Stay tuned for other similar articles.  

Have a thought? Please leave a message below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

MSC Poesia Garbage Dumping

MSC Poesia Garbage Dumping

MSC Cruises' Garbage Dumping Scandal: Will Travel Agents, Travel Writers & Cruise Bloggers Look the Other Way?

Yesterday we wrote about MSC Cruises allegedly dumping garbage bags and other items into the ocean at night from the Magnifica cruise ship while it was sailing in Brazilian waters.

It's been 24 hours since we posted the article together with video and photographs provided to us by a former cruise line employee. Our article has gone viral, having been read several hundred thousands of times with over 7,000 Facebook "likes."

You can see the videos here and the photos here.  

We have received lots of comments by members of the public expressing their disappointment and outrage that this cruise line was allegedly engaged in this type of alleged conduct. But what's the reaction from the MSC Cruises Magnifica Cruise Pollution Garbage Dumpingcruise industry and the maritime authorities? The cruise lines want us to believe that authorities "rigorously" enforces "strict" environmental regulations? What's the reaction from travel agents and travel writers about this breaking news story?   Let's take a look:

The International Maritime Organization (IMO): The IMO is the international maritime authority which promulgated the pollution regulations (MARPOL) which the cruise lines are suppose to comply with. Cruise ships can't dump unprocessed food or other items within three miles of the closest shore. They are suppose to separate, process, grind, crush and/or incinerate the ship's refuse, paper items and/or garbage and then discharge the garbage at sea at various distances from shore or store the pulverized / incinerated materials for pick up at port after the cruise is over. Plastic is prohibited from being discharged.

But what happens when a cruise line ignores MARPOL? Nothing. The IMO is a United Nations entity. It's a "feel good" organization. It can't enforce its own rules and it can't punish cruise lines when they violate the rules.

Cruise Line International Association (CLIA): CLIA is the cruise industry trade association which promotes the image and the interests of the cruise lines. CLIA says that if a cruise line member violates safety or environmental regulations, it will take steps against the member including kicking the cruise line out of the organization. But that will never happen.  CLIA has never criticized, admonished or taken disciplinary action against a cruise line. It's sole function is to protect the cruise industry from public scrutiny or criticism. 

CLIA has not issued a public statement about the MSC dumping scandal. Don't expect one either. There would have to be a Congressional investigation taking place before CLIA would even acknowledge the issue and it would then spin the story with corporate gobbledygook. Today CLIA's CEO and former travel-agent Christine Duffy issued a PR statement on CLIA's behalf applauding the cruise industry's alleged efforts to create a "pristine environment." Ms. Duffy said: "We will continue to forge new paths toward a greener, more sustainable planet . . ." and "will make cruising more environmentally conscious than ever before."   

Travel Agents, Writers, and Cruise Bloggers:  So far not a single travel publication has touched the story. There are thousands of tweets and Facebook posts from the usual cruise bloggers (Cruise Hive, Cruise Currents, Cruise Fever, Cruise Critic) and travel writers (Travel Weekly, Travel Pulse) about the best deals on cruises. Many hundreds of travel agents are hawking cruises on Twitter. But no one is mentioning garbage bags in the sea dumped at night.

That's bad for the travel agents' business. And whether the cruise lines are polluting or not, travel agents are selling cruises on the MSC Magnifica right now. 99% of the travel writers and cruise bloggers just want the pollution story to go away. They don't want to embarrass their friends in the cruise industry. They're afraid that the cruise lines won't give them complimentary or heavily discounted cruises if they mention the story.

That's what MSC Cruises and CLIA are counting on. The cruise industry won't change a bit as long as the 16,000 CLIA travel agents and travel writers remain silent as the oceans are polluted with cruise garbage.     

 

Guardian of the Seas? Is MSC Cruises Polluting Brazilian Waters Again?

MSC Cruises Cruise Dumping - Garbage BagsTwo months ago, we posted a video from a Brazilian newspaper showing MSC Cruises crew members apparently throwing black garbage bags into the water (video at bottom).

The video, taken by a passenger aboard an unidentified MSC ship (later identified as the Magnifica), created a hue and cry among environmentalists and citizens of Brazil. Rightfully so. Dumping of plastics and unprocessed garbage is illegal according to the international MARPOL recommendations. This dumping allegedly took place in Brazilian waters near a marine sanctuary.

After the passenger video surfaced, MSC, seemingly unrepentant, released a PR statement calling its cruise ships "Guardians of the Seas." It said that it would investigate the alleged dumping and touted its environmental policies.

After we covered the story, a number of people within the industry contacted us. They suggested that dumping of garbage bags from cruise ships like this took place more often than the cruise lines would like the public to know.

Yesterday, we received photographs and videos from a concerned "Good Samaritan." The images appear to show MSC crew members throwing garbage bags out to sea. Unlike the video taken by the passenger from an upper deck of the ship, these videos were taken by a former crew member inside of the ship showing what he described as illegal garbage dumping. We have posted two of the videos below.

The videos shown are short "snippets," of only 10 seconds or so, of workers wearing blue MSC overalls carrying bags to the windowless portholes on a mooring deck and then heaving the bags out to sea.

MSC Cruises Cruise Dumping - Garbage Bags The video and photographs were taken by a former crew member who wishes to remain anonymous.

The former employee claims that MSC discarded garbage bags often filled with plastics, oily discharge and other materials which the cruise lines are prohibited from dumping. The former employee took photos of a lower mooring deck showing a pile of garbage bags which he said were later thrown into the sea, including a stack of wooden pallets which had been broken down to fit through the portholes and then pitched out to sea.  

The former employee told us that the dumping occurred from the MSC Magnifica within Brazilian waters.

Click on our Facebook page to see some of the photos of the dumping at sea.

The press in Brazil has focused on the cruise industry after bathers at a public beach called Praia da Tartaruga (Turtle Beach) near Búzios City in Brazil suffered irritated eyes, difficulty breathing, and gastrointestinal problems. The officials believe that cruise ships discharged noxious waste into the water. These images will add to the debate whether cruise lines are polluting the waters of Brazil.

This morning, we reached out to MSC Cruises's Fort Lauderdale office for an explanation regarding what is shown in the latest videos and photographs.  We have not received a response.    

Have a thought?  Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page. 

Have a video or evidence of illegal cruise line conduct?  Contact us. We will bring the story to the public. 

 

MSC Cruises Cruise Garbage Bag Dumping

 

Brazilian Cruise Pollution Debate Continues: Sewage or Silt?

A week ago we discussed a controversy which erupted in Brazil when around 60 bathers on Turtle Beach in the beautiful resort town of Buzios became ill. Government officials suspected that a cruise ship discharged noxious liquids and waste into the waters. 

A newspaper in Brazil, Globo, covered the story and posted aerial photographs of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship with discolored water around it.  It looked to me that the muddy-looking water was probably sand and silt which had been churned up by the vessel's engines. We posted the photos on line. The issue nonetheless remained what made the bathers at the beach so sick?

Brazil took samples of the contaminated water at the beach, as well as samples from several cruise ships in the area. The test results were inconclusive. The cruise association in Brazil denies that any of the cruise ships discharged anything and maintains that all ships comply with international maritime standards addressing the discharge of waste water.

The controversy reported in the press has led to at least one cruise passenger coming forward to claim that other cruise ships may be fouling the waters in Brazil.

Globo reports that cruise passenger Jesus Alcinir, age 50, from Panama, was sailing on the MSC Orchestra with his family last November to Buzios. He observed what he believed was a nasty looking and terribly smelling liquid that seemed to leave the ship. He took a photograph which you can see below.

He told Globo: "I was watching the sea. That transparent color, that blue sea with green, when out of nowhere this spot that seemed to come out of our ship emerged. The smell was very strong at the time and I was upset to hear that it could be some fluid that would be polluting the environment."

A crew member said that because the ship just stopped and lowered an anchor, silt would have been disrupted and muddied the water.

Passenger Alcinar was unconvinced, particularly because of the strong smell. 

I suppose that the smell could have been from the muck and perhaps decomposing organic material like seaweed. I would also think that if the cruise ship was going to illegally open its bilges, it would do so at night while the ship was underway. 

No samples were taken of the water. 

Being accused of discharging waste in Brazilian waters in the last thing that MSC needs. Last December we posted a video of MSC crew members seemingly throwing garbage bags in the water near a marine sanctuary in Brazil. 

Sewage or silt? Join the discussion on our Facebook page.

MSC Orchestra Cruise Ship

Photo Credit: Jesus Alcinir via Globo

Did Splendor of the Seas or Other Cruise Ships Dump Sewage Near Turtle Beach in Brazil?

A reader of Cruise News in Brazil sent us an article from a Brazilian newspaper indicating that swimmers (including children) at a public beach near Búzios City, Brazil reported to the hospital with irritated eyes, difficulty breathing, and gastrointestinal problems.

The beach is called Praia da Tartaruga (Turtle Beach).

According to the newspaper Globo, public environmental officials in Brazil reportedly believe that the health problems may have been caused by discharge from one of three cruise ships in the area.

Samples were taken from the three cruise ships which called on the city of Búzios (north of Rio de Splendor of the Seas BrazilJaneiro) to compare them with contaminated water collected at the public beach. 

The three cruise ships have not been identified. However, the newspaper contains a photograph of the Royal Caribbean Splendor of the Seas. The newspaper indicates that the aerial photograph was taken by Secretary of State for Environment, Indio da Costa. Discolored water was observed around the cruise ship. The Brazilian official is quoted saying (translated):

"Still can not know what contaminated water, but we are almost certain that the problem was caused by the release of untreated sewage or treated irregularly by one of the ships docked in Buzios." 

The health authorities closed the beach due to the polluted water. 

The newspaper states that fines for polluting the waters of Brazil can reach $50 million, according to Brazil's Secretary of State for Environment.

The Brazilian cruise organization denied that the polluted water came from cruise ships. It said that the cruise companies comply with the guidelines a set by the MARPOL Convention (International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships). 

It is unknown to us whether the Sovereign of the Seas or any other cruise ships were dumping anything in the Brazilian waters, or whether the discolored water around the Sovereign as shown in the photographs is attributable to silt being churned up by the ship's engines, the decomposition of algae or some other explanation. 

The test results are expected to be ready by Wednesday. We will identify the other cruise ships in the area as soon as we obtain this information.

We recently discussed an incident involving a MSC cruise ship which reportedly was caught dumping black garbage bags off the coast of Brazil near a marine sanctuary, after making a transatlantic crossing. A cruise passenger videotaped the dumpingSplendor of the Seas Brazil

 Photos Credit: Indio da Costa, Secretary of Environment from the State of Rio de Janeiro via Globo.com

MSC Cruises - Guardians of the Seas?

A trade organization publication, Cruise Industry News, recently released a promotional, public relations piece about MSC Cruises.

The cruise line assisted in releasing a baby seal, named Selso, back into his natural environment. The 2 year old seal had been stranded on a beach and had undergone rehabilitation at uShaka Sea World,

MSC congratulated itself in this statement:

"We at MSC consider ourselves Guardians of the Seas and treat the oceans of the world with the Garbage Bag Cruise Ship MSC Cruisesutmost respect, believing that by acting green and protecting the biodiversity, we can all help keep the waters blue. Oceans and life in the oceans are inextricably connected with humans and Selso’s heart-warming story is just a proof of that."

The problem with this over-the-top, self-laudatory statement is that it contrasts sharply with the last story which we wrote about MSC. The cruise line was caught dumping plastic garbage bags into the waters of Brazil near a marine sanctuary. You can see the video of the dumping here.

This is a story which Cruise Industry News did not cover.

The discharge of plastics and other non biodegradable materials causes great harm to the marine environment.  It causes injury, suffering and death to marine life, including seals.

MSC Cruises the Guardians of the Seas? 

This award shouldn't be based on a highly publicized public relations stunt but on what the MSC cruise ships are doing routinely at sea, under the cover of at night, far away from the public's eyes.

 

Question of the Day: Are cruise lines still routinely dumping garbage bags at sea?  This was common in the 1980's and even 1990's, but not so much today it seems.  Are some cruise lines still throwing garbage bags into the ocean at night?  Leave a comment below or send us an email: jim@cruiselaw.com.

Or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Worst Cruise Line Headline of the Day: "Cruise Industry is Going Overboard to Make Sailing Safe for the Environment"

Today the travel section of the New York Daily News published an article entitled the Cruise Industry is Going Overboard to Make Sailing Safe for the Environment.

In light of the many recent overboard passenger cases, the title is inappropriate. After all, there have been four passengers who have gone overboard in less than three weeks. Passengers have gone overboard from the Rhapsody of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas and Independence of the Seas, all operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises in just eleven days. Just this morning, I posted an article about a passenger going overboard from Holland America Line's Veendam

So I clicked on the link, which goes to a puff piece by a writer for the Daily News claiming that:  

Garbage Bags Cruise Ship DumpingThe "major lines have reportedly reduced waste, garbage and other forms of pollution by nearly 50% in the past decade through a conscientious, industry-wide effort to go green."

"Conscientious, industry-wide effort to go green?"  Egads!

The last news about the cruise industry, involving environmental issues, involves a MSC cruise ship which is alleged to have recently dumped bags of garbage overboard into Brazilian waters after making a Transatlantic crossing.    

It's cruise passengers, not the cruise lines, who are going overboard. And it's the cruise industry which is treating the oceans like a garbage dump. 

MSC Cruises Complains After Caught Dumping Garbage Bags in Brazilian Waters

MSC MagnificaToday I received a link to an article in Brazil regarding the allegations of a cruise passenger sailing on a MSC cruise ship (The MSC Magnifica) that the crew members were dumping garbage bags into Brazilian waters.

A local blogger in Brazil posted the embarrassing news and MSC, in turn, complained to its public relations firm. You can see the email (in Portugese) from MSC below ("Indeed, we have problems . . .")

It is interesting to read the comments to the article complaining about the cruise ship dumping. The Brazilians complained of being treating like its waters are a dumping zone for the cruise world's garbage. 

We posted the story about the MSC dumping before on our blog, Facebook and Twitter. The story has received some publicity in the U.S. but not as much as the story deserves, considering the stark discrepancy between MSC's image of being environmentally sensitive and the apparent reality that it may dump bags of garbage at sea in the darkness of night. 

The incident demonstrates that much cruise line talk about protecting the environment is just for PR purposes. The reality on cruise ships is much different. 

The blog article has a video of the dumping which you can see at the bottom: 

MSC Cruises Dumping Garbage

 

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Video: MSC Cruise Ship Dumps Garbage Bags Off Coast of Brazil

A reader of Cruise Law News has informed us that a television station in Brazil just released a story about a MSC cruise ship dumping garbage bags into the sea off of the coast of Brazil. The story is based on a cruise passenger's account.You can see what appears to be blag bags being throw out of the ship from what a lower deck. The ship had sailed from Italy and the dumping seems to have occurred after the ship made its transatlantic voyage and before it arrived in Brazil.

The vídeo is in Portuguese. 

Here's the information on the YouTube site:

"O navio saiu de Gênova, na Itália. De acordo com passageiro que fez o flagrante, funcionários do navio começaram a jogar os sacos de lixo no mar quando entrou na costa brasileira. A reportagem foi exibida no SBT Brasil."

The translation: "The ship left Genoa, Italy. According to passengers, employees of the ship began to throw the trash bags in the sea when it joined the Brazilian coast. The report aired on SBT Brazil."

A news article from Brazil states that the disposal was close to the natural sanctuary of Fernando de Noronha, off the coast of Pernambuco. Here's the translation:

"A passenger on the MSC cruise, which left Genoa, Italy, captured on video the moment official liner trash bags dumped at sea. According to international standards, the waste of these vessels should be treated and separated before being dispensed. 

According to the passenger, businessman Sergio de Oliveira, the staff of the ship began to throw the trash bags in the sea when the ship entered the Brazilian coast. The man also claims that one of the sites chosen for the drop was close to the natural sanctuary of Fernando de Noronha, off the coast of Pernambuco. The businessman lodged the complaint to the prosecutor in Apucarana."

If you have information to share about this incident, please leave a comment or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Princess Cruises Fined for Dumping 66,000 Gallons of Chlorinated Water into Glacier Bay in Alaska

KTOO news station in Alaska reports today that the Environmental Protection Agency fined Princess Cruises $20,000 for dumping water from six swimming pools aboard the Golden Princess cruise ship into Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in 2011.

The EPA announced the fine against the cruise line yesterday.

Princess was forced to sign a consent agreement admitting responsibility and subjecting itself to a final court order. Princess admitted that it violated the Clean Water Act in May 2011 when it discharged Princess Cruises Pollution Glacier Bay Alaskamore than 66,000 gallons of pool water into the pristine waters of Glacier Bay.

Princess Cruises claims that a "software malfunction," on the Golden Princess, somehow caused all six of the pool valves to open. This dumped chlorinated water from all of the cruise ship’s pools as well as whirlpools into the national park and preserve.

The waste-water permits for large cruise ships prohibit the discharge of pool and spa water in national parks and refuges. 

The fine comes at a time when the Governor of Alaska is agreeing to roll back the strict water emission laws of Alaska as urged by the cruise industry

Princess Cruises has the worst environmental record in the Alaskan waters, and has been caught discharging illegal levels of waste water over the recent years.  Before the state of Alaska began passing strict environmental laws, the cruise industry openly dumped raw sewage and chemicals throughout the Alaskan waters.   

Can the Cruise Industry Keep Up With Bad Cruise News?

The Costa Concordia in January disaster set off a seemingly endless avalanche of stories on cable news this year about ship fires, sinkings and other cruise disasters, as well as a steady stream of articles and videos about sexual assaults during cruises, drunken brawling passengers, and the disappearance of women at sea.

I'm just one of probably 100 maritime attorneys in the United States who handle cases against cruise lines. But just this year alone I have appeared on ABC's 20/20, Dateline, PBS, Canada's CTV and CNN, as well being quoted in newspapers and magazines like the Wall Street Journal, Slate, The Daily, London's Financial Times, Newsweek Magazine, Newsweek's The Daily Beast blog, Fund Web, Reuters, Consumer Affairs, Australia's Herald Sun, Houston Chronicle, Seattle Times, Sun Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Tampa Bay Business Journal, Business Insider, and Greenwich Magazine.

I Love Lucy - Chocolate FactoryEven Perez Hilton quoted one of our stories about a cruise crime for goodness sakes. 

The cruise lines' PR have been working overtime to respond to hundreds of stories from the U.S. and international media about cruise ship mishaps and dangers.

The cruise industry's trade organization (CLIA) has been pumping out press release after press release, touting that cruise crime is "rare" and trying to explain that the Concordia debacle was an isolated incident caused by one bad-apple captain.

But stories about ship fires, engine failures and children being sexually assaulted on cruises keep coming and coming.

A lot of pressure has fallen on CLIA to salvage the cruise industry's reputation. That's a daunting task.

There's the pesky image of the Concordia lying on its side in Italian waters as a daily reminder that 32 people are dead and yet the cruise line did not even have a procedure in place to require life boat drills before sailing. Plus the cruise industry has the visual disadvantage of having to compete with the dramatic images on television of the panicked passengers trying to save their own lives, as well as teenage rape victims explaining the horror of being raped during a vacation cruise.

Slick corporate gobbledygook after-the-fact PR statements about the "safety of our guests is the cruise lines' highest priority" are not going to cut it.           

The victims' stories are too compelling. Belated PR statements from an industry with a major credibility problem won't work.

The cruise industry has picked the CEO of CLIA, Christine Duffy, to combat the bad press.  CLIA just launched a new blog and opened a twitter account for Ms. Duffy to fight the bad news. 

One of MS. Duffy's first blogs was "Sailing with Respect" where CLIA touted itself as a steward of the marine environment. It included a beautiful stock photo of colorful tropical fish and pristine water. But today a story broke about what is believed to be cruise ship garbage and feces drifting ashore on a quaint beach in Massachusetts. Local officials believe a HAL cruise ship emptied its bilges after sailing from Boston last month. The story was covered in the local press, a television station in Boston and USA Today's travel section.

Faced with these images, its hard for anyone to believe the cruise industry statement that it is "extremely committed to protecting the waters and surrounding environments where we operate to preserve their natural beauty, minimize impact on native species and protect the waters upon which we sail."  Happy talk won't persuade the public faced with plastic bottles, used hygiene products and condoms washing ashore covered in a gooey brown mass of human excrement.

Also breaking today was a story from a local station in Houston about a woman from Texas raped during a cruise out of Galveston.  CLIA responded with its usual PR statement that crime is "rare," which seems cold and callous juxtaposed against a video of a woman sobbing that no one helped her after she was raped on the last night of the cruise. 

I don't see how Ms. Duffy can keep up with the continuous bad news.

An image comes to mind of an "I Love Lucy" episode of Lucy working at a chocolate factory.  Pieces of chocolate come out of the kitchen on a conveyor belt. It's Lucy's (and Ethel's) job to tie the chocolate up in an attractive wrapping (not unlike Ms. Duffy's job to wrap the bad news with a pretty bow). 

But the conveyor belt picks up speed. Soon Lucy is overwhelmed. She tires to eat or hide the chocolate but makes a mess of herself and the chocolate in the process. Finally, she exclaims "I think we are fighting a losing game." 

    

Cruise Ship Dumping of Trash & Feces Conflicts With Industry's Image as Steward of the Seas

Cruise Ship Fantasy PhotoIn one of the first articles published in the cruise industry's new blog, entitled "Sailing with Respect," the cruise lines pitched themselves as leaders of the marine environment.  CLIA CEO Christine Duffy proclaimed that:

"As an industry, we are extremely committed to protecting the waters and surrounding environments where we operate to preserve their natural beauty, minimize impact on native species and protect the waters upon which we sail."

CLIA embedded a beautiful stock photo from shutterstock showing colorful coral reefs and an abundance of tropical fish. But like the photo-shopped cruise fantasy image, CLIA's PR statement is far from the reality of how the cruise industry really operates.

video posted yesterday by a Boston Massachusetts television station explains that officials in the quaint coastal town of Nahant, Massachusetts found a local beach fouled by a huge amount of human excrement, toilet paper, rubber gloves, flip-flops, plastic bottles, dental floss, condoms, personal hygiene items and a urinal cake covered in a mass of disgusting brownish foam.  

Cruise Ship Reality - Dumping Human Waste and GarbageThe officials believe that the sewage and garbage were dumped from a Holland America Line cruise ship which sailed off the coast of northern Massachusetts last month. The harbormaster took photos of the debris and found a cruise ship cabin tag amongst the sewage. 

The HAL PR people are denying everything of course, but there is no dispute that cruise lines dump untreated sewage a few miles from shore.  USA Today has picked up on the story and points out that bulk garbage from cruise ships is supposed to be "incinerated, grinded, compacted or crushed" (which still is a nasty way to pollute the oceans) but do we believe that always happens? 

What makes this case particularly offensive is that this area of coastline is a "No Discharge Zone" so the requirements are even more stringent than normal.   I wonder who the cruise industry folks at CLIA are going to blame for this story?

August 10 2012 Update: CNN picks up the story.  Here's a comment to the story: "Cruise ships always deny deny deny. People go missing, get assaulted, & everything is swept under the rug even when the big lump is showing."

Did the Monarch of the Seas Dump Tons of Sediment, Chemicals & Bacteria off the Coast of California in January 2006?

Last week a number of news organizations reported on the story about the release of hydrogen sulfide aboard the Monarch of the Seas in 2005 which killed three crewmembers, injured at least nineteen other ship employees and threatened the health of thousands of cruise passengers.

We blogged about this disastrous event last week in our article "Royal Caribbean Demonstrated "Gross Indifference" to Passengers' Lives."  Our article followed NBC Los Angeles's report that a Miami Judge found that Royal Caribbean Cruises demonstrated "a gross indifference to the life and health" of passengers by continuing to cruise with a ship that "that allowed poison gas exposure to its passengers." 

Royal Caribbean Pollution - Monarch of the Seas DumpingIn following up on this story, we found that Royal Caribbean staff captain Bjørn Eidissen, who is now at the center of this story, reported that four months after the poison gas incident, the Monarch of the Seas dumped "tons" of  sediment, chemicals and bacteria while the cruise ship was approaching a dry dock in January of 2006.  

Staff Captain Bjørn Eidissen was apparently on vacation when this occurred, but he subsequently complained on an U.S. Coast Guard forum that the dumping was reported to CEO Richard Fain.  Yet, the cruise line apparently did not report this intentional discharge to the U.S. Coast Guard. 

Here is what staff captain Bjørn Eidissen posted online in 2008:  

"Need to report of environmental crime and ships safety issue . .

Cruiseship Monarch of the Seas, while underway to dry dock in Jan. 2006.  San Fransisco
emptied tanks to sea, against Marpol and Royal Caribbeans SQM environmental policy.
Tank concern was DD11,usen as fixed ballast, contained tons of sediment,chemicals,and bacterias . . the tank had been the source of an accident in San Pedro Sept.  2nd.2005.  Methan gas accident, 3 casualties.

Probobly cause of the crime,was to save money and time in Drydock, cleaningwork was scheduled.  According to ships stability manual,DD11 was not to be emptied at sea,due to negative stability would occour.  Ship had approx. 1000 peoples onboard,crew and contractors
The ballastrepport sendt to USCG does not reflect correct status,as the tank was emptied just before DD.and was free of liquids when entering drydock.

Ship was given gas free cerificate by the yard,although over 100ppm methane and H2S was measured when in ddrydock . . cleaning work was cancelled due to that fact.  The most serious action was putting the cruiseship in negative stability jepardizing all lifes onboard,in addition to the environmental crime by discharging the tank inside legal borders.

This was reported to CEO Richard Fain early may 2006,by mail from Norway, but no action was taken, and ot was not reported to USCG,as the intention of the repoting letter was. 

Please take notice of this message and forward it to whom it may concern.  Please contact by e-mail Chief Officer Jan Andreassen..e-mail janjacoba@gmail.com or Captain B.Eidissen mail b_eidissen@yahoo.no, chief officer was onboard at the time of the crime,and witness all actions.but was kept out of the loop by RCCL superintendant and Chief Engineer - Chief Officer protested, but was not heard.  I was at home in Norway when I was told by acting Captain Jørn Clausen, that the tank had been emptied against his knowledge, and had put him in a imposssible position towards the cruise company, and coast Guard.

I took action from Norway,while on vacation, and wrote to CEO Richard Fain, as mentioned erlyer, but it has come to my knowledge that the cruise company Royal caribbean International, did not pass my report over to USCG, as whas my intention with lthe report in the first place.

Please forward this message to coast guard high ranking officers,PLEASE,IMPORTANT
It has seemed almost impassible to get authorities here in Norway,to understand the seriousness of this crime,and to even believe in it.

Thanks for your help.

Captain Bjørn Eidissen"

Assuming this information is accurate, did Royal Caribbean cover this up?  I see no mention that this incident was reported to the Coast Guard or that there were any fines levied against the cruise line.

Royal Caribbean has a dreadful history of environmental crimes and a corporate culture of covering the crimes up.

In the late 1990's, the U.S. Coast Guard caught Royal Caribbean engaged in widespread dumping of oil and chemicals.  The Justice Department responded by fining the cruise line $1,000,000.  In response, the cruise line went to its PR people who dreamed up a campaign of "Save the Waves."  The PR experts posed the cruise line as a leader in protecting the environment.  Royal Caribbean posted this mantra on signs all over its cruise ships.  All of the waiters, bar tenders, and cabin attendants had to wear "Save the Waves" badges touting the cruise line's commitment to protecting the seas on which it sailed. 

The problem, however, is that the cruise line didn't change its ways.  Royal Caribbean continued to illegally discharge oil, waste and fecal matter everywhere from the Caribbean to the pristine waters of Alaska.

The Feds caught Royal Caribbean dumping again.  And the U.S. government fined the cruise line again - this time $8,000,000 - and placed it on probation.  Did Royal Caribbean learn its lesson?  No, the illegal discharges increased.  While the crew members wore their "save the waves" buttons above deck while serving passengers cocktails, Royal Caribbean engineers below the decks fabricated secret by-pass values to dump everything from raw sewage to chemicals used in the photography labs directly into the ocean. Royal Caribbean cruise ship even dumped oil and sewage into the waters right outside of the executives' windows overlooking Biscayne Bay.

The U.S. Attorney General, Janet Reno, a Miami resident herself and an environmentalist as well, was not amused. The discrepancy between how the cruise held itself out to the public as a green company versus its actual criminal conduct was not lost on the Attorney General.  By the time she was through, Royal Caribbean pled guilty to multiple felonies, received another whopping fine of $18,000,000, and agreed to a five year probation.

The U.S. leveled the felony charges not just because of the repeated and massive scale of the dumping of pollutants but because the cruise line continued to lie. U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno stated at a press conference: 

.  .  . at the same time that their ships were sailing into the inland passage of Alaska, one of the most sensitive and beautiful eco-systems in our nation, their crew members were wearing buttons that said, 'Save the Waves.'  That's what they were wearing above deck.  Below deck, business as usual was going on and oily contaminated bilge water was being dumped overboard . . .

Attorney General Reno was rightfully outraged: " .  .  . if people flim-flam us, they should expect the consequences .  .  ."  When the sentencing was over, the U.S. Government fined Royal Caribbean a total of $27,000,000 and placed the cruise line on probation for five years. 

A number of environmental organizations considered Royal Caribbean to be the poster child for cruise dumping.  The Oceana organization initiated a campaign against the cruise line which included flying banners over Royal Caribbean ships saying "Got Sewage? Royal Caribbean Dumps Daily."   

Did the cruise line resort to its old ways and empty the bilges of the Monarch of the Seas off of the shores of San Francisco in 2006?    

Does anyone have information about this January 2006 alleged incident?

 

June 20, 2011 Update This article was picked as a top 10 law blog by LexBlog.

Photo credit:  National Sky Ads

California Ban On Cruise Dumping To Be Enforced

The San Jose Mercury News reports that the Obama administration will enforce a California law designed to prohibit cruise ships from dumping any kind of sewage -- even highly filtered wastewater -- along California's coast out to three miles from shore.

California will now have among the strictest laws in the nation limiting pollution from large ships.

"This is going to cover the entire California coastline," said state Senator Joe Simitian "Oceangoing vessels should not consider our coastline a place for dumping sewage."

In 2005, Simitian wrote a bill that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger which signed banning sewage discharges in state waters from cruise ships. The bill -- the first of its kind in the nation -- made it Crystal Harmony - Pollution - Dumping Sewageillegal for such ships to discharge oily bilge water, "gray water" from sinks and showers and other hazardous waste. But a key provision that also banned sewage releases could not legally take effect until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave permission under the federal Clean Water Act.  The Bush administration did not act on California's request to enforce the state law.

The impetus behind the bill was a cruise dumping incident in In 2003.  The Crystal Harmony (photo left) dumped around 35,000 gallons of grey water, sewage, and bilge water in a marine sanctuary in Monterey Bay.  

According to the L.A. Times, Crystal Cruises said didn't have to report the incident to authorities because it broke no laws. It is "perfectly legal" under maritime laws to discharge even untreated wastewater more than 12 miles offshore, and the ship was 14 miles offshore at the time, said Crystal spokeswoman Mimi Weisband. 

"We didn't break any law," Weisband said. "We did break a promise."

The city of Monterey thereafter banned all Crystal cruise ships for life. 

"I remember picking up the paper and thinking, 'you gotta be kidding me,' " Senator Simitian said. "Their answer was 'we didn't break any rules.' I remember thinking, if this isn't against the law it ought to be."

In the 2010 Green Report Card by the environmental group Friends of the Earth, Crystal Cruises received the lowest grade - "F."   Cruise spokesperson Weisband responded by saying that Crystal Cruises "deserved an A ... if not an A+."

Alaska Reduces Taxes and Relaxes Pollution Standards For Bullying Cruise Lines

The Juneau Empire reports that Alaska just weakened its wastewater regulations at the cruise industry's request.  Cruise ships are now permitted to dump greater amount of ammonia (from fecal matter), copper, nickel and zinc in Alaska's pristine waters.

The newspaper reports that the cruise industry is "pleased" and  and "appreciates" the new wastewater discharge rules.

The cruise industry bullied Alaska, threatening the state with pulling cruise ships from Alaska if the wastewater standards were not relaxed.  Some cruise lines planned to reduce time in the ports in Alaska, so that they could sail outside of state waters and dump wastewater without being subject to Alaska's strict standards.

Cruise Ship Pollution - Wastewater - EmissionsCruise lines have been toying with Alaska even since its citizens passed an initiative to increase taxes and enact wastewater regulations to protect Alaskan waters from massively polluting cruise ships.  On Earth Day last week, the New York Times characterized cruise lines as "notorious polluters."  

The cruise industry is having its way with Alaska at this point.

It's agenda was first to wiggle out of Alaska's taxes, but the tax issue was never about whether the $46 head tax was too high.  The cruise lines didn't pay the tax in the first place.  Cruise passengers did.  It is ludicrous to suggest that a family would decide to cruise if the tax were $34 but not cruise at $46.

The real issue has always been the issue of whether the cruise industry would permit a state like Alaska to regulate it.  State of the art pollution technology is expensive.  Cruise lines don't pay any Federal taxes on the $35,000,000,000 they collect on fares each year from tax paying Americans. They don't want to set a precedent of allowing states to impose standards to protect their natural resources.  It's cheaper to pollute.

Earlier this year, the cruise industry twisted the arms of some of the Republican legislators in Alaska and kicked green water scientist Gershon Cohen off of the state's wastewater panel.  This was pay back for Mr. Cohen's work in passing the regulations which strengthened  Alaska's environmental regulations.  With Mr. Cohen removed from the panel, it was easy pickings to gut the pollution standards to benefit the polluters.     

A few weeks ago, Alaska announced it was reducing it's "head tax" on cruise passenger by 25%.  Today, it has relaxed its pollution regulations.  All of this is working exactly as the cruise industry planned after a year of threats and lawsuits. 

The Juneau Empire printed a letter from an Alaskan reader "Beaten Up By Bullies."

It's amazing to see how a "notorious polluting" Miami-based industry which collects $35 billion a year tax-free can threaten and bully Alaska to get exactly what it wants - reduced state taxes, relaxed pollution laws, and more profits . . .

 

For additional information, consider reading:

Polluting Cruise Industry Tries Again to Avoid Alaskan Regulations

 

 

Credits:

Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas cruise ship    AlaskanLibrarian's Flickr photostream

Cruise Ships in South Carolina - Harmless Fun or Environmental Scourge?

The Charleston City Paper has an interesting headline this morning - "Are Cruise Ship Harmless Fun Or An Environmental Scourge?"

The article raises the issue of how South Carolina will face its future as a state with a major cruise port.  Unlike progressive states like Alaska, California and Maine which regulate waste water discharges, the state of South Carolina has no state regulations relating to the cruise industry. This leaves the cruise lines subject to only lax international regulations, which have not been updated for a long time and which the cruise lines have routinely violated anyway. 

Cruise Ship Pollution - Bunker Fuel - Blackwater What's remarkable about the article is that it reveals that cruise lines can legally dump garbage and untreated sewage overboard when the ships are at least three miles offshore. 

Although the cruise industry claims that it dumps untreated sewage ("blackwater") only 12 miles from shore, the effects of the human waste from thousands of passengers and crew are disastrous.   The waste dumped by cruise ships into the water contains bacteria, pathogens, disease, intestinal parasites, pharmaceuticals, nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous and - whenever there is a norovirus outbreak - gallons and gallons of infected feces which, in turn, are consumed by fish and filter-fed by shellfish.

We have touched upon dumping feces just 12 miles off the coast of South Carolina before - "Can Sick Cruise Ships Cause Norovirus Outbreaks in Ports?"

You can carefully read all of the press releases and letters to the editors by the cruise industry, but  nowhere will you see a strict commitment from cruise lines not to dump untreated sewage.  This is not only gross, but its an unnecessary hazard to the health of humans, marine life and coral systems wherever cruise ships sail.  As pointed out by the non-profit organization Friends of the Earth:

"The contaminants in human waste and wastewater – known as blackwater or sewage – pose a risk to public health not only through the food supply, as fisheries and shellfish beds can be contaminated, but also through direct contamination of water ingested by surfers, beachgoers, and water-sport enthusiasts. In addition, blackwater contains nitrogen and phosphorus that promote excessive algal growth, which in turn consumes oxygen in the water and can lead to fish kills and the destruction of other aquatic life, including coral . . ."

Is cruising fun?  Is it harmful to the environment?  Yes, to both questions.

That's why South Carolina would be smart to protect its waters and its people from the scourge of cruise pollution and adopt wastewater regulations similar to those enacted in Alaska.

For additional information, consider reading: "Cruise Ships In Charleston."

 

Credits:

Photograph              Coastal Conversation League 

Princess' Cult of a Cruise - #FollowMeAtSea Folly

Over the past week, those of you who read my blog but don't Twitter missed the remarkable phenomenon of bickering between a small group of travel bloggers invited by Princess Cruises to promote cruising under the hash tag #followmeatsea - and a larger group of green travelers who could not stomach the wow-cruising-is-amazing tone of the tweets.  

"Bickering" may be an understatement.  The debate was more like the food fight in one of my favorite movies, Animal House.    

And boy did I enjoy it.  

John Belushi - Animal House - Food FightThe first time I read that Princess Cruises was making its foray into social media with #followmeatsea, I knew that it  was going to be a disaster.  

In September, I praised the social media skills of Princess Cruises' sister company P & O Cruises for its use of YouTube by its CEO to provide information and diffuse criticism in "Cruise Lines and Social Media - P & O Cruises Hits A Home Run," but I blasted Princess Cruises for its lack of social web skills. 

The problem with Princess was that it was oblivious to the discussion raging on Twitter when one of its cruise ships caught on fire.  When Princess finally responded days later, it lost credibility by refusing to engage in a conversation on Twitter and by referring the public to its its self-serving and misleading press statements.   

And here we are again.

The green travelers baited the here's-a-free-cruise-so-write-something-nice-about-us bloggers on Princess' Crown Princess with questions about the obvious unsustainability of cruising.  The bloggers were blind-sided.  While Princess's guests were being skewered, Princess ignored the environmental inquiries but chose to re-tweet only the most mundane isn't-this-wonderful tweets by its new friends with comments like "Beautiful!" or "Too funny!"  

When Princess finally responded to the spot-on environmental criticisms, it referred to a statement on its website (circa 2008). But it refused to answer a single question about the use of bunker fuel or its ongoing history of discharge violations which continue to this day. 

With good reason.  Princess has the most deplorable environmental record of any of the 25 cruise lines sailing out of the U.S. over the last couple of months. Lets put the nicely written environmental policies on its slick web site aside for a moment. Take a look at Princess Cruises' actual practices:    

In September, the Diamond Princess, Island Princess, Pacific  PrincessSapphire Princess and Sea Princess were cited for violating the Alaska Wastewater Quality Standards.  Again, in October, the Diamond Princess, Island Princess, Pacific Princess, Sapphire Princess and Sea Princess - together with the Golden Princess - were cited for water discharge violations.

This month, the same culprits - the Diamond Princess, Island Princess, Sea Princess, Golden Princess and Diamond Princess were busted for pollution.  The charges?  Dumping illegal levels of copper, ammonia, zinc and fecal coliform bacteria into Alaska's pristine waters. It was therefore hard to read one of the bloggers' comments:  

  Kim Mance tweet on behind the scenes Princess Cruises Tour
 

 

 

 

The Norwegian Environmental Officer who charmed the blogger no doubt looked very impressive and convincing in his white uniform. But nothing could be further from the truth. Princess Cruises had bamboozled this nice travel writer and set her up for ridicule.  

Now, I will admit. I tweeted a few grenades into the #followmeatsea debate, asking about the start of a trial in L.A. where a Princess Cruises waiter allegedly sexually assaulted a passenger aboard the Coral Princess, as well as Princess Cruises' nasty practice of dumping insufficiently treated chemicals and feces into Alaska's Cruise Pollutionclean waters.  Princess Cruises ignored these pointed questions, although one brave blogger promised to ask the Environmental Officer about the violations and tweet his answer.  

The problem here is that Princess doesn't realize that it cannot control the debate by inviting a few nice people onto their cruise ship with the hope that they write nice things about the cruise. Todd Lucier wrote an interesting blog on Princess' social media debacle entitled "Seven Deadly Sins of Social Media: Lessons from #followmeatsea."  Deadly Sin #1, according to Mr. Lucier, is "thinking you can control social media."  

Unlike the cult-of-personality cruise community sites like CruiseCritic and CruiseMates where membership requires group-think cheerleading and true cruise critics are banished, the Twitter forum is pure free speech.  Fortunately, there are many free thinkers out there with a healthy dose of cynicism.  Princess Cruises' #followmeatsea happy talk was predestined to turn into a discussion of real issues, which the cruise line was ill-prepared to handle.

The spirited back and forth on Twitter was invigorating.  But I am still waiting for a response from Princess Cruises' Environmental Officer about Princess' last 17 wastewater violations.

 

Credits:

Coral Princess    Barbara Bagnell (via National Post)

#followmeatsea tweet          Todd Lucier