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According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), from 2003 to around 2013, engineers on the Caribbean Princess, Star Princess, Grand Princess, Coral Princess and Golden Princess by-passed the oil-water separators (OWS) and released oily substances into the oceans. These employees of Princess Cruises used a number of techniques, including the so-called “magic pipes” and running clean water past the sensors of the OWS to prevent the system from triggering an alarm. The engineers lied and falsified oil logs on the ships.

On the Caribbean Princess, once a whistleblower reported the environmental violations, the senior ship engineers dismantled the bypass pipe and instructed crew members to lie.

These illegal practices on the Princess cruise ships took place over nearly a ten year period of time.

Why didn’t the DOJ arrest a single one of the engineers engaged in the illegal practices?  I have received many inquiries from people asking why no one, including cruise executives, will serve jail time?

A couple of years ago, Captain reported that “two high-ranking ship engineers were sentenced to prison … Star Princess after being convicted of using a so-called “magic pipe” to illegally dump oil sludge and wastewater overboard from their ship and then attempting to cover it up.” The sentencing involved the chief engineer and second engineer of the Ocean Hope, a Greek operated cargo ship, who were convicted of conspiracy, violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, obstruction of justice and witness tampering by a federal jury in Greenville, North Carolina.

Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden of the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division stated: “This case shows that polluting the ocean with oily waste and sludge will land you in jail . . .”

Cruden was also involved in the original Princess Cruises investigation, where the misconduct involved more ships for a far longer period of time.

So why the difference?  Princess Cruises and parent company Carnival Corporation clearly wanted to put this debacle behind them, so they apparently cut a deal which eliminated the possibility that the DOJ would be eliciting sworn testimony from any of the shipboard employees. The DOJ press release indicated that Princess engineers on the Caribbean Princess believed that the shore-side superintendent, like the chief engineer on the ship overseeing the cover-up, suffered from the braccino corto complex (an Italian expression for a cheap person whose arms are too short to reach his wallet).

So the engineers’ testimony could have implicated Princess Cruises’ shore-side supervisors. And once its was proven that an audit of the vessel expenses showed that there were no costs for offloading and legally disposing the oily waste, the only issue is how many people in Princess Cruises’ and Carnival’s headquarters in Santa Clarita and Miami were involved in the conspiracy. The cruise executives wanted to maintain plausible deniability which would not be possible if their senior engineers were going to face prosecution and began pointing their fingers at the corporate offices. So, in my view, Carnival Corporation and Princess Cruises negotiated a settlement with a relatively small fine, which avoided their greatest concern that the DOJ’s investigation would reveal the senior shipboard officers. criminal conduct and, in turn, expose the shoreside managers and shoreside executives to criminal liability.

The DOJ touted that the case involved the “the largest-ever criminal penalty involving deliberate vessel pollution.” But the reality is that polluting the oceans will not land you in jail if you are an engineer on a cruise ship who can implicate the owners and executives in the pollution, lies and cover-up.

Of course, we now know that Carnival Corporation did not learn anything after being caught with its widespread pollution and lying and being fined $40,000,000 several years ago. The Carnival-owned ships continued to illegally discharge grey water, sewage and plastics from their ships, from Glacier Bay in Alaska to the water of the Bahamas, according to findings submitted to the Court by the Court Appointed Monitor (CAM). All Princess Cruises and Carnival Corporation had to do was just pay another fine, a paltry $20,000,000, from its tax-free bounty of $3,200,000,000 in profits from last year alone.

Without jail time and personal liability of the engineers and executives, the Carnival-owned ships will continue illegally discharging oil, sewage, plastics, and grey water. Carnival has an endless source of money that can fund $20,000,000 fines, just like you or me handing out $5 bills.

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

Other articles about this issue:

Princess Cruises Pollution Cover-Up: Are the Greedy Cruise Executives Untouchable?

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

Deliberate Dumping, Cover-Up and Lies: DOJ Fines Princess Cruises $40,000,000.

Photo credit: Star Princess – Jim Walker

Today a group of victims of Carnival Corporation’s environmental crimes sought to vacate the Court’s approval of an out of court settlement reached between the U.S. Government and Carnival Corporation.

The attorney for Fotini Duncombe (a Bahamian citizen and co-founder of a Bahamas Environmental group called “reEarth”), Theodore Thoma (the head of a environmental group called “Responsible Cruising in Alaska”), Eric Forrer (an Alaskan fisherman), and Ronn Buschmann (an Alaskan Resident), all of whom were seeking status under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA), filed a writ of mandamus that seeks to vacate the settlement of probation violations approved by Judge Patricia Seitz on June 3, 2019. The Court approved what many viewed as a secret backroom deal struck between the U.S Government and the giant cruise company which resulted in a relatively small financial fine of just $20,000,000.

The environmental victims are not seeking any financial recovery for themselves.

Seattle attorney Knoll Lowney argued in the writ filed in the Eleventh Court of Appeal that Judge Seitz committed error by summarily denying his clients their rights under the CVRA without explanation and without conducting an evidentiary inquiry, or making findings of fact or conclusions of law. He argued that the Court erred in accepting the Government’s inaccurate and misleading statement that the criminal charges against Carnival allegedly involved only a single vessel, the Caribbean Princess, photo above, which allegedly did not commit illegal violations in Alaska or the Bahamas. The evidence, Lownet argues, shows that Carnival’s widespread criminal pollution occurred on at least five ships (Caribbean Princess, Golden Princess, Coral Princess, Grand Princess and Star Princess) continuously over a ten year period, and these ships unquestionably were operating and polluting in the waters of the Bahamas and Alaska for much of that ten year period.

The writ also references the original plea agreement which contains “an explicit settlement of crimes by Carnival and its subsidiaries for making and using false statements and records and obstruction of justice relating to improper discharges of oil and falsification of data across their entire fleets.”

Lowrey contended that the Court accepted the Government’s erroneous legal arguments that the victims did not have rights under the CVRA because the Information did not specify that Carnival’s environmental crimes occured in Alaska or the Bahamas, and victims of probation violations that constitute crimes allegedly have no rights under the CVRA.   He argued that the scope of CVRA is not limited by the Information and victim’s rights can attach to post conviction crimes and proceedings.

There is no question of course that Carnival’s continued environmental crimes committed during the Court ordered probation took place in Alaska (where it committed the federal offense of discharging 25,000 gallons of untreated grey water in National Glacier Park) and in the Bahamas (where the Carnival Elation, photo above, discharged plastic items mixed together with food in the waters of the Bahamas).

Lowney is seeking to vacate the order approving the settlement agreement, to remand the case, and to order Judge Seitz to allow the environmental victims to participate in the probation violation proceedings.

A mandamus petition of this type requires the appellate court to decide the appeal within 72 hours (by Thursday, June 20, 2019).

It remains to be seen how the Eleventh Circuit will rule on the pending writ. In any event, a review of the writ and the accompanying attachments raise substantial issues whether the settlement deal was just another “sweet deal” for Carnival which resulted from its cozy relationship with U.S. Government.

Attorney Lowney points out that the parties repeatedly failed to involve or provide any notice to the environmental victims and “actively sought to preclude participation by victims and other impacted members of the public by keeping the terms of the Agreement secret.” He accurately points out that the settlement agreement reached between the Government and Carnival was not a transparent process; it was not even disclosed to the public until it was filed about an hour before the June 3rd hearing, effectively preventing the victims from even seeing the agreement before the hearing.

There also appears to be no question that the Government and Carnival negotiated for the scope of the formal charges to be substantially narrower than Carnival’s admitted criminal wrongdoing.

It is also appears clear in reading the writ that Carnival’s environmental crimes were widespread and pervasive.  The writ points out that the original plea agreement (which resulted in a $40,000,000 fine) involved the criminal discharge of oil from secret valves installed on at least five Carnival-owned ships over a ten year period.  The plea agreement also contained a “specific disclosure that Carnival had discovered false recordkeeping of oily waters in an unidentified number of ships across Carnival and its subsidiaries’ entire fleets.”

Most shocking is the reference in the writ to the evidence in the record establishing that Carnival’s “deliberate vessel pollution such as occurred in this case has been estimated to cause as much as eight times the amount of oil pollution each year as catastrophic spills such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill.” (emphasis added)

The Exxon Valdez disaster resulted in Exxon paying around $2,000,000,000 (billion) in clean-up costs and  an additional $1,000,000,000 (billion) to settle related civil and criminal charges, plus a jury awarded $287,000,000 (million) in damages and $5,000,000,000 (billion) in punitive damages, which were reduced after an appeal to around $500,000,000 (million).

In this case, there is no trial, no award of damages, no punitive damages, no order of restitution and no ancillary payments. Just a pittance of a $20,000,000 fine (million), decided without any involvement of the victims of Carnival’s widespread and ongoing criminal violations, against a corporation which netted $3,200,000,000 (billion) in profits last year alone.

Such a small fine is hardly punitive in nature. It does not “smart” by causing the corporation financial pain designed to make the executives smarter. It is just a fraction of the costs of Carnival doing business. As one commentator said – Carnival’s fine (less than 0.07 % of net income) was a tickle of their feet … which made them laugh, all the way to the bank.”

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

You can read the writ here.

Photo Credit: Carnival Elation – Hargcb – CC BY-SA commons / wikimedia; Caribbean Princess –  Yankeesman312 – CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia; Government Exhibit, appendix, volume 2-97; Exxon Valdez – History.com.

A passenger reportedly drowned on the Caribbean Princess during the last cruise, according to a crew member and a passenger who wish to remain anonymous.

The man, believed to be in his 30’s, was found in the bottom of the Neptune pool on deck 15 of the Caribbean Princess around 5:00 a.m. on the morning of Friday, June 14, 2019.  He reportedly had been drinking the previous night during a party on the pool deck (24K Gold Deck Party) and later at the Skywalkers Lounge on the ship. CPR was reportedly performed without success.

The Princess cruise ship was sailing back to Fort Lauderdale on the evening of Thursday, June 13th after visiting  Cozumel, Mexico.

The guest had apparently entered the swimming pool which was allegedly closed. (But see update below). It is unknown whether the Caribbean Princess had assigned any security personnel to the pool or to patrol the pool deck during Thursday evening / night or early Friday morning.

This is not the first time that a passenger has drowned on a Princess cruise ship.  An eight-year-old girl was in critical condition after being found unconscious in the swimming pool of the Sapphire Princess in August of 2015. A 29-year-old woman drowned in the pool of the same cruise ship a year earlier, in August of 2014. The Maritime Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) investigated the fatality in question as well as an additional swimming pool death involving a passenger on board the Diamond Princess on June 23, 2015. The MAIB was very critical of Princess for failing to employ lifeguards or conduct a risk assessment of the dangers presented by the swimming pools on the ship.

More recently, a stateroom attendant rescued a passenger on the Star Princess who was drowning in the ship’s main pool after reportedly suffering from heart attack symptoms, according to the Crew Center website.

Regarding the recent drowning on the Caribbean Princess, the decedent’s body will probably be autopsied by the Broward County Medical Examiner’s office after the ship returned to Fort Lauderdale.

The Caribbean Princess was sailing on a seven day cruise,  leaving from Fort Lauderdale, Florida on June 8, 2019 to George Town, Grand Cayman, Roatan, Honduras,  Belize City, Belize, and Cozumel, Mexico. The Princess cruise ship returned to Fort Lauderdale yesterday (on June 15th).

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

June 16, 2019 Update: Another guest on the cruise ship during the cruise contacted me, stating:

“Sir, I can tell you with 100% certainty that this particular pool was not closed when the drowning occurred on Friday morning. My niece and quite a few other passengers were detained when we arrived at Ft Lauderdale on Saturday morning to be questioned by detectives . . . my niece and several of the people she had met and been hanging out with on the cruise left Skywalkers night club around 3 and went down to sit on the pool edge with their feet in the water; the deceased was swimming and others were in and out of the water.”

June 17, 2019 Update: A third guest on the ship during the cruise in question commented:

“I was on the Caribbean Princess on June 8th 2019 sailing when the young man drowned. I was awake at the time when I heard the call at 5.00 am. I was on deck 15 when the medical team and staff were putting the deceased in a body bag. I was talking to a employee at guest services I told her I was up there she questioned me if the pool was covered with the net I told her no. At night time the pools net is supposed to be on this way it prevents somebody going in the pool when it is dark. I was on the Caribbean Princess for 3 months last  _____  passing thru the lido deck at 4.00 am I saw many young passengers that were drinking all night sitting on the edge of the pool with there feet in the water. Sometimes the net was on other nights the net was not on. If the net was on this young man would not have been able to get in the pool to go for a swim. Hopefully from now on the net will be put on top of the swimming pool every night. I am going back on the Caribbean Princess on ____. I will be watching to see if the Caribbean Princess start to cover the pool every night.” (dates omitted to maintain anonymity).

The passenger was identified as Stephen Osakue, age 37, who worked as a research pharmacist for the U.S. Air Force. A military publication indicates that he was a major in the Air Force.

June 18, 2019 Update: There are additional comments by guests on the cruise in question via Heavy.com.

June 19, 2019 Update: A newspaper, The Dispatch, in Columbus/Starkville, Mississippi published a comment from an Air Force commander that:

“Major Stephen Osakue was a valued-member of Team BLAZE, the Medical Group, and our pharmacy. He was an airman, a father, a husband, a son, a friend and so much more. This is a difficult time for many across the base, especially his family. Our thoughts and prayers are going out to his wife and children, co-workers, and friends.”

The Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office also stated that it “plans to review video footage from the cruise ship, once Princess Cruises provides it.”

Photo credit: Top – Yankeesman312 – CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia; bottom – Military.com.

In response to my inquiry on social media for the identity of the master of the Viking Sigyn (photo below) who was recently involved in the deadly collision on the Danube River, several crew members (who wish to remain anonymous) identify him as Yuriy Chaplinsky.

The police in Hungary arrested the master on suspicion of “endangering waterborne traffic resulting in multiple deaths.”

In Hungary, newspaper (and public officials) do not disclose the full name of people accused of crimes. Instead, the Hungarian police identified him only as “C. Yuriy” from Odessa, Ukraine.

As previously reported, the Viking Sigyn collided with a Hungarian sightseeing boat, the Hableany (“Mermaid”), operated by the Panorama Boat company, on the Danube River on May 29th. Thirty-three South Korean tourists and two Hungarian tour guides were aboard the sightseeing boat when the Viking Sigyn struck the smaller vessel in the stern as the two vessels were heading toward the Margit Bridge in central Budapest.  Seven people were rescued, nineteen bodies have been pulled from the river and nine souls are still missing.

You can see video of the two ships approaching the bridge here.

Hungarian prosecutors are now stating that master of the Viking river ship was also the master of the Viking Idun (photo right) when it collided with a tanker in the Netherland two months ago.  He is reportedly being investigated for his involvement in that collision as well, according to Hungarian prosecutors. According to the Washington Post, Viking states that, unlike the situation with the Viking Sigyn when he was at the helm, Master Chaplinsky was not navigating the Viking Idun at the time of that particular collision.

Viking denied that any passengers aboard the Viking Idun were injured, although news accounts (which vary) indicate that as many as five people were injured. At least one crew member was taken to the hospital.

Captain Chaplinsky, through his lawyer, denies responsibility and expresses remorse for the deadly collision involving the Viking Sigyn. His lawyer apparently has not made a public statement regarding the Viking Idun accident.

According to Reuters, the prosecutors in Hungary said  that the captain had “deleted data from his phone” after the collision in Budapest. They said it was unclear whether the data was related to the accident.

A couple of years ago, Condé Nast Traveler published an article titled Onboard the Viking Idun: Photos from my River Cruise in the Netherlands. Included in the article was a photograph of captain Chaplinsky (above) and a brief summary of his eleven years (as of 2012) with Viking River Cruises. The article states that he “began his career piloting cargo ships around Europe’s waterways.”

If you have a comment or question, please leave one below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

June 14, 2019 Update: Arirang News Ukrainian captain of cruise ship that hit tour boat in Budapest released on bail, search continues for missing. “The Ukrainian captain of the Viking Sigyn cruiser, identified as Yuriy Chaplinsky, was released from custody on Thursday, after a Hungarian court upheld its earlier decision to grant him bail, despite the prosecution’s appeals for him to stay under lock and key. His bail was set at 53-thousand U.S. dollars. Upon his release, the captain covered his face with paper and did not respond to any reporters’ questions. The captain’s lawyer said his client is very sorry, but the captain denies being responsible for the collision.”

Image credit: Main photo –  Master Yuriy Chaplinsky – Condé Nast Traveler / Deborah Dunn; top – Viking Sigyn collision – screengrab from ATV Magyarország YouTube; middle – Viking Indu collision –  Twitter/GAINFRA_ZW7/omroepzeeland; bottom – Captain Chaplinsky released on bail – Arirang News.

Representatives of Carnival Corporation (“Carnival”) appeared in Miami federal court yesterday for a hearing on a proposed resolution of new pollution charges pending against the giant cruise company. The federal court judge, Patricia Seitz, accepted the settlement deal recently reached between the U.S. Government and Carnival, which the parties filed into the court record literally at the last minute before the hearing.

Carnival pleaded guilty to six charges of violating probation at the hearing on Monday.

A copy of the settlement agreement which was approved in its entirety by the Court is available (via the Miami Herald) here.

A Slap on the Wrist for Ongoing and Widespread Environmental Crimes?

Judge Seitz accepted and approved the fine reached between the parties without comment.

A second judge who presided over the hearing, Ursula Ungaro, took a more serious tone throughout the hearing.  Judge Ungaro will be taking responsibility for the case later this year. Judge Seitz explained that Judge Ungaro heads the district’s high-risk recidivism program and commented that “Carnival is a perfect candidate” for such a program.

Judge Ungaro commented that illegal discharges by Carnival and subsidiary Princess has been going on since 1993 when Princess first pleaded guilty to dumping plastic bags into the oceans. She stated “This has been going on since 1993 and we’re sitting here talking about food waste mixed with plastic, it’s incredible.”

Judge Ungaro asked  federal prosecutor, Richard Udell, how he came up with the monetary fine. He vaguely responded that it’s “complicated” and suggested that the fine was in line with unspecified “sentencing guidelines.” Judge Ungaro asked him what percentage the fine represented of Carnival’s net worth. Remarkably, he stated that he did not know and suggested that Carnival would have to respond to that question. The Court then made no further inquiry. (According to the New York Times, Carnival’s stock market value is estimated to be nearly $35 billion alone. A fine of only $20,000,000 turns out to be just 0.00057142857 of this amount).

Judge Seitz previously intimated at an earlier hearing in April that Carnival’s ongoing pollution warrants an additional fine of a substantial nature and/or other punishment including potential jail time for the executives and possibly barring Carnival-owned ships from U.S. ports. She characterized her previous sanction of $40,000,000 as just a “drop in the bucket.” Her disinterest at the hearing yesterday in learning the reasons for the minimal fine was, therefore, baffling.

Judge Seitz rhetorically asked how she could impose personal sanctions against Carnival’s senior management.  Initially Judge Seitz suggested that penal or personal financial consequences may be imposed against the senior Carnival executives if there were additional future environmental violations . But she quickly dropped the issue, stating that such personal fines would be unprecedented.

Federal prosecutors previously accused Carnival of violating the terms of probation arising from Princess Cruises’ ships use of “secret bypass pipes” to illegally discharge oily waste around the world, and then covering it up and lying about the widespread pollution. In 2016, Carnival pleaded guilty to the pollution, conspiracy and obstruction of justice. It was Carnival’s disregard of the terms of its probation which brought it to the hearing yesterday.

The Court Refused to Consider the Victims’ Accounts

The Court denied motions filed on behalf of four individual parties who sought to intervene in the case. These individuals included Fortini (“Sam) Duncombe, the co-founder of a Bahamas Environmental group called “reEarth;” Eric Forrer, a fisherman working in Alaska; Theodore Thoma, the head of a environmental group called “Responsible Cruising in Alaska;” and Kathy and Ed Hansen who operate a family fishing business in Alaska. None of these individuals were permitted to speak in court and were not even introduced to the Court.

Their attorney, Knoll Lowney, contended that they qualified as victims under the Crime Victims Rights Act (CVRA) and he requested an opportunity for them to inform the Court on a first hand basis the effect of Carnival’s pollution on their businesses and personal lives.

Mr. Lowney protested that there was an obvious  lack of transparency in the settlement process which was first disclosed to the public only an hour or so before the hearing. He questioned why there were no public charges of environmental crimes which Carnival admitted committing since it was placed on probation several years ago. He asked the Court to slow down the process and provide the victims (primarily environmental groups) with an opportunity to be heard.

The Government opposed the victim’s involvement in the case and Judge Seitz denied their motions to intervene in the case. Lowney further advised the Court that she should ban Carnival from cruising in Alaska’s Glacier Bay given its crime of discharging  grey water into the pristine waters of this National Park. He also suggested that the Court should prohibit Carnival from burning heavy fuel oil in U.S. waters and using using single-use plastics. Mr. Lowney suggested that an environmental auditor should also be present and monitor the operations of the cruise company on every cruise.

Mr. Lowney also urged the Court to reject the parties’ proposal to reduce the use of single-use plastics only by 50% over the next three years. A more aggressive plastic reduction program was necessary in light of the ongoing problem with discharging plastics mixed together with food on Carnival’s fleet of ships. For example, the Government introduced evidence that pulper systems on numerous Carnival-owned cruise ships contained items such as plastic dish pads, straws, plastic gloves, and other non-food items which cannot be legally discharged under any circumstance. During a period of six week in April and May of this year, there were over 175 incidents of inadequately sorted food waste and over 125 incidents where plastic were identified in the food waste systems on Carnival-owned ships.

Judge Seitz did not respond to any of Lowney’s concerns.

The Court spent significant time questioning whether Carnival’s senior management was really committed to make the protection of the environment a “core and inherent value,” aside from just making money. She questioned whether CEO Arnold Donald had any genuine interest in environmental issues. Mr. Donald, a former CEO of chemical giant Monsanto, admitted that he had no such interests lately.

A Packed Courtroom Filled with Silent Millionaire and Billionaire Cruise Executives 

The hearing was packed. Chairman Micky Arison, Carnival’s largest shareholder with a net worth of over $8,500,000,000  was present (as ordered by the Court)  but he did not speak (and was asked no questions by the Court). Five additional corporate board members were present in the courtroom in addition to Chairman Arison and CEO Donald. The CEO’s of Carnival’s cruise brands HAL, Princess, Costa, Carnival Cruise Line, AIDA, P&O, and Seabourn were present. The criminal defense lawyer for Carnival, David Oscar Markus, informed the Court that Carnival cruise executives from all of the brands were present and seated in the gallery; they had flown to Miami to attend the hearing from around the world; and allegedly were “taking this very seriously.” None of them spoke (other than Arnold Donald) except to exchange pleasantries with the Court.

Instead Seitz accepted the agreement in its entirety.

Environmental group were not impressed with the decision.

Kendra Ulrich, a senior campaigner at Stand.earth (photo left), stated: “There was a lot of talk in this case about taking significant legal action to ensure Carnival Corporation ends its criminal behaviour. Instead, the communities and individuals impacted by the environmental crimes from this multi-billion dollar corporation ended up with more empty words and another backroom deal that cannot even be characterised as a slap on the wrist, Today’s ruling was a betrayal of the public trust and a continuation of the weak enforcement that has allowed Carnival Corporation to continue to profit by selling the environment to its passengers while its cruise ships contribute to the destruction of the fragile ecosystems they visit.”

Social media also pointed out that the fine was around what Carnival Chairman Micky Arison, who owns the Miami Heat professional basketball team, is paying as a salary to one of its players.

The out of court settlement documents which the Court approved was signed by Mr. Arison, Mr. Donald, and long term director Stuart Subotnick. CEO Donald was required to take an oath and admit that “the company” (Carnival) committed the six environmental crimes and was guilty of the crimes.

In addition to the meager monetary fine, the settlement agreement obligated Carnival to:

  • Agree to and pay for additional Third Party Audits and Court Appointed Monitor visits to its ships;
  • Make a statement to all of its employees accepting responsibility for the probations violations;
  • Restructure the company’s corporate compliance efforts, by appointing a new chief Corporate Compliance Officer (CCO), create an Executive Compliance Committee and add a new member to the Board of Directors with corporate compliance expertise;
  • Notify the government and the court of future environmental violations, including discharges in non-U.S. waters and identify the country affected; and
  • Change its waste management practices regarding how the company uses and disposes of plastic and other non-food waste to reduce its illegal discharges of plastic mixed with other garbage.

Conclusion: Business as Usual?  

Carnival claims that it wishes to be a leader in protecting the environment, but in reality it has demonstrated contempt for the oceans ever since subsidiary Princess was first placed on probation for dumping plastic bags of garbage over 26 years ago.

Carnival enjoys a huge financial advantage not only because it pays no U.S. taxes and complies with no U.S. labor laws, but because it has avoided the considerable costs of legally storing and properly disposing of waste oil over the years.  It has not come close to satisfactorily addressing the ongoing problem of discharging plastic and non-food waste mixed with food. Recent findings of the Court Appointed Monitor (CAM) disclosed well over one hundred cruises in just the last couple of months where the CAM found food mixed with plastic and other non-food waste which is strictly prohibited from being discharged by MARPOL

The settlement deal which it  struck with the U.S. Government to reduce its use of “single-use plastics over the course of the next three years” is an-uninspired joke. If Carnival really pretends that it will be a leader in protecting the environment, it should have readily agree to a more ambitious goal. The U.S. Government should have demanded it. And the Court should have ordered it.

Carnival, a giant corporation incorporated in Panama to avoid all U.S. taxes and U.S. labor laws and led by a former CEO of chemical giant Monsanto, has no intuitive ability to naturally protect the water and air.

It seems that at the end of the day, collecting huge sums  of money is Carnival’s “core and inherent” goal. Although initially threatening to bar Carnival-owned ships from U.S. ports and sentence Carnival executives to jail, Judge Seitz simply slapped Carnival’s wrist with just a $20,000,000 fine.  CEO Donald was smiling from ear to ear as he was the first to exit the courtroom.

If a $40,000,000 fine was a drop in the bucket as Judge Seitz expressed just 30 days ago, a fine of one-half of that amount is literally just a half-drop in the bucket.

Environmental groups are criticizing the weak sanctions entered yesterday as the result of a backroom deal dominated by Carnival’s interests which was rubber-stamped by the Court with little regard for the affected communities. They are absolutely correct. The lawyer for the victims, Knoll Lowney, said it best when he urged the Court “not to consider another compromise between the U.S. Government and Carnival without “meaningful participation by the victims of Carnival’s environmental crimes . . .  [because] . . .  the lack of transparency could cast a shadow over the legitimacy of these proceedings.”

The Court had an opportunity to right Carnival’s ship with a meaningful fine which is the only thing the Carnival executives understand; but, ultimately, she looked the other way.

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

Photo credit: Ruby Princess, April 2019 – Kathy and Ed Hansen; Carnival food chutes with plastic items & silverware mixed with food – Court Appointed Monitor and anonymous Carnival crew member; Kendra Ulrich, of Stand.earth – Lynne Sladky (AP) via Time; Micky Arison and Arnold Donald – local10.com.

See Photographs of the Carnival executives via the Miami Herald here.

Update: Via the Los Angles TimesCarnival cruises dump raw sewage and plastic waste into the sea, get wrist slap:

“Donald said on Monday that the company has plans to fix what he called the ‘problems,’ but I’m skeptical. What incentive do Carnival executives have to undertake what will surely be an expensive and tactically challenging change in on-board practice when they can simply admit to fouling the seas and walk away with no jail time or loss of personal fortune?”

The MSC Opera  smashed into a dock located on the Giudecca canal in Venice this morning. Tugs could not maintain control of the MSC cruise ship as it violently struck the dock and then struck the stern of the River Countess (a river cruise ship) which was docked and disembarking passengers, as shown in a number of videos taken of the accident.

You can hear the MSC Opera blasting its horn while it strikes the dock and smaller vessel. Tourists are seen initially running away from the cruise ship.  Four tourists  were reportedly injured in the incident.  People reportedly fell from the gangway to the River Countess into the water in the incident.

This is not the first time that a MSC cruise ship struck a pier in Venice. In April of 2014, the MSC cruise ship, Preziosa, collided with a large passenger walkway at the port of Venice. Newspapers in Italy, such as La Nuova, covered the damage to the pedestrian corridor (called a “finger”) at the maritime station which provide access to the upper decks of the cruise ships.

The latest incident reportedly occurred after the MSC Opera lost engine power and a line from a tug broke.

This incident will add to the debate whether gigantic cruise ships should be permitted to sail in the basin so close to the beautiful buildings of the old city.

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

Screen grab and video credits: Beppe Caccia via Iain Reid Twitter page.

Update: A passenger on the MSC Opera videotaped the incident (below). Credit Adrian Lauretti (YouTube).

Yesterday a lawyer from Seattle Washington filed a motion on behalf of three victims of Carnival’s pollution seeking status under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA).  Seattle attorney Knoll Lowney argues that his three clients, all affected by Princess Cruise Line’s and its parent Carnival Corporation’s pollution, want more transparency in the case.

The victims’ motion to amend was filed just four days before the Court will consider whether to approve a proposed resolution of the U.S Government’s motion to revoke Carnival’s probation based on six new charges that Carnival violated its probation. (The Court agreed with the parties to move the hearing up several weeks). As the Miami Herald point out, the six violations are: falsifying records, communicating with the U.S. Coast Guard through a back channel, failing to give sufficient authority to the company’s environmental compliance officer,preparing its ships ahead of visits by a court-appointed monitor, and dumping plastic items into Bahamian waters. (Details about the sixth incident have not been disclosed).

The proposed resolution reached between the U.S. Government and Carnival is currently unknown. The public will first learn of the proposed terms and conditions of the proposed resolution at the hearing scheduled for June 3rd, when the Court will decide whether to accept the deal reached out of court.

Motion to Intervene

The three victims are identified as Fortini Duncombe, who is the co-founder of a Bahamas Environmental group called “reEarth;” Eric Forrer, who is a fisherman working in Alaska; and Theodore Thoma, who is the head of a environmental group called “Responsible Cruising in Alaska.” (None of these individuals are seeking monetary damages). Letters were all filed yesterday in support of their motion to intervene outlining their first hand experiences caused by Carnival’s pollution. They represent the interests of victims in communities across the United States, from Florida to Alaska, and from California to Maine which rely on a clean environment for their livelihood and recreation.

Mr. Duncombe represents the sentiments of the citizens of the Bahamas which received the brunt of the illegal discharges by Carnival into its waters when cruise ships dumped plastics, bottle caps, wood, aluminum and other garbage which had been mixed together with food items discharged via food chutes.

You can read the motion to intervene and the letters from the victims here.

The victims’ motion to intervene explains that there were no victims present or heard at the proceedings which resulting in the original plea agreement several years ago between the US Government and Carnival.

Lowry argues that the absence of victims affected by the massive pollution scheme contributed to a weak and ineffectual compromise. The soft original sentence failed to bring about meaningful change in Carnival’s recidivist corporate culture and has ultimately resulted in continued criminal conduct by Carnival. The weak original plea agreement reached between the U.S. Government and Carnival, Lowry points out, is “aptly demonstrated by Carnival’s ongoing criminal violations of environmental laws, reflected in the reports of the Court Appointed Monitor (“CAM”), [and] the Government’s efforts to revoke Carnival’s probation . . . ”

The victims’ lawyer also asks that the Court should not consider another compromise between the U.S. Government and Carnival without “meaningful participation by the victims of Carnival’s environmental crimes . . .  [because] to do so would violate the letter and spirit of the CVRA and, equally importantly, the lack of transparency could cast a shadow over the legitimacy of these proceedings.”

Another Secret Sweet Deal?

This latter argument seems particularly appropriate considering it was the U.S. Government and Carnival which agreed to the first plea agreement which imposed just a modest fine of $40,000,000 which is a pittace given Carnival’s enormous profits. For example, Carnival collected net profits of well over $3,000,000,000 (billion) last year alone. There also was no accountability of the executives or senior managers in the cruise company’s widespread and ongoing pollution scheme. In my assessment, another deal struck in private (so far) between these two parties has the appearance of yet another sweet deal for what this Court has already labelled a “recidivist criminal.”

Letter From Concerned Citizens

Yesterday, Judge Patricia Seitz filed into the court record copies of letters which she received from concerned citizens regarding the highly publicized pollution case.

As we have reported before, in 2016, Princess pleaded guilty to widespread pollution over a period of eight years involving at least five Carnival-owned cruise ships, as well as conspiracy and obstruction of justice. The Court ordered Carnival Corporation and its subsidiary cruise brands to probation for a period of five years during which its operations have been monitored by court appointed experts to keep the cruise giant from continuing to pollute the environment.

The Court Appointed Monitor (CAM) submitted reports to the Court indicating that Carnival-owned cruise ships have continued to illegally make discharges, including grey water in Glacier Bay, Alaska and vast quantities of plastics, aluminum, and non-food items in the waters of the Bahamas. At a hearing in April,  Judge Seitz expressed her frustration with Carnival’s ongoing pollution. She reprimanded Carnival Corp.’s chairman, Micky Arison, and its president Arnold Donald, neither of whom were present at the hearing, stating that she regretted not being able to send the executives to a few days in detention. She stated that “the people at the top are treating this as a gnat. . .”

Judge Seitz stated previously that she will rule whether Carnival Corp.’s behavior warrants additional fines and/or other punishment. She characterized her previous sanction of $40,000,000 as a “drop in the bucket.”  She also  threatened to block the company from docking its one hundred cruise ships at U.S. ports.

The Miami Herald published these comments by the Court in a widely read series of articles which were published across the United States and internationally.  Since that time, concerned citizens and environmental groups have written to the Court. The majority of people have expressed support for serious sanctions to be entered against the Carnival cruise brands. These letters (with personal information redacted) have now been made public by the Court.

Two non-profits organizations, including Heal The Ocean, wrote letters to Judge Seitz expressing alarm regarding Carnival’s ongoing pollution and asked the Court to fine Carnival and bar its ships from U.S. ports.

One person who sailed on a Princess cruise ship to Alaska in September of 2018 complained that the Emerald Princess discharged a “yellowish plume of liquid” while the ship was docked in Skagway for at least 20 minutes.  She enclosed photographs of the discharge which appeared to be partially treated sewage.

One person asked the judge to carry through with her threatened punishment of Carnival for their “despicable mess of dumping grey water into Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park.”

Another concerned person expressed her feelings that “we need to do our best to take care of this planet . . . and we have to make a stand at some point against those who knowingly pollute it.”

Two future cruisers, however, who were more concerned that their upcoming cruises may be disrupted by a Court sanction, asked for the Court to be lenient with Carnival, with one person writing “Carnival asserted that there had been a misunderstanding. I’m sure their explanations are sincere . . .”

You can read the letters filed in court here.

Next Up – Hearing on Monday

The next hearing will take place this Monday, June 3rd. The Court has ordered all members of the Carnival Corporation and PLC Executive Committee of the Board of Directors, including Micky Arison, Arnold Donald, and Stuart Subotnick, to appear at the hearing at the federal courthouse.

Will Judge Seitz Do Anything Significant Regarding Carnival’s Ongoing Pollution?

In an informal poll which I posted here a month ago, two-thirds of those responding chose sanctions of $250,000,000 or more, or jail time for the executives, or both, to punish Carnival Corp. for its ongoing pollution and violation of its terms of probation.

There were several hundred people participating in the poll, most of who have very strong feelings about the issue of Carnival’s ongoing pollution and what the Court should do about it.

If you are inclined to voice your concerns to the Court, please write to her at the following address:

Re:  United States of America v. Princess Cruise Lines Ltd., Case No.: 16-20897.

Senior Judge Patricia A. Seitz

Willie D. Ferguson Jr. United States Courthouse

400 North Miami Avenue

Courtroom 11-4

Miami, Florida 33128

Her official email address is: seitz@flsd.uscourts.gov 

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

Photo credit: Carnival Food Chutes: top – Court Appointed Monitor; bottom – anonymous Carnival employee.

Court Filing From the Court Appointed Monitor

 

A river cruise ship, the Viking Sigyn, operated by Viking River Cruises, collided with a Hungarian sightseeing boat, the Hableany (“Mermaid”), operated by the Panorama Boat company, on the Danube River last night with thirty-three tourists and two Hungarian tour guides aboard.  Seven people were reportedly rescued. Seven people are dead and twenty-one are reportedly missing. (This is the second collision involving a Viking river cruise ship in the last two months).

A Hungarian police officer involved in the initial investigation explains that “Both ships were heading north … and when they arrived between two pillars of the Margit Bridge, for some reason the Hableany turned in front of the Viking ship. As the Viking comes into contact with it, it overturns it and in about seven seconds, as it turned on its side, it sank.”

The Viking Sigyn apparently ran over the smaller boat. Video footage shows the two vessels in the Danube River in central Budapest, shortly before the collision. The larger Viking ship then is seen running over the stern of smaller boat as they approach the Margit Bridge (shown below via ATV Magyarország). The smaller vessel apparently pulled in front of the Viking Sigyn.

There were no reports of injury on the Viking river ship (called a “longship” by Viking).

The Miami Herald covers the story in detail. The Washington Post contains a video of the incident.

Danger with River Cruising

We have written about relatively few mishaps involving river cruises in Europe over the years but they happen, particularly recently.

In September 2016, another Viking River Cruises ship, the Viking Freya struck a rail bridge, crushing the wheelhouse and killing two Hungarian officers who were navigating the river ship. The ship was on its way to Budapest at the time of the deadly accident. (125 people left comments to our article with many former Viking customers defending the inexcusable accident).

More recently, in September of 2016, the M/S Swiss Crystal river cruise ship collided with a highway bridge on the Rhine river near Duisburg, Germany, injuring 30 passengers.

On March 21, 2019,  the Scylla Edelweiss experienced an electrical fire and collided with a cargo ship, the Forenso, on the Waal River in the Netherlands.

On April 1, 2019, a collision occurred between the river cruise ship, the Viking Idun, and a tanker, the Chemical Marketer, while the ships were sailing from Antwerp to Ghent. Four passengers were reportedly injured.

Last week, on May 21, 2019, an unidentified river cruise ship (some people believe is a Viking longship) with 183 passengers aboard, forgot to lower its wheelhouse and struck a bridge in an incident similar to the Viking Freya mishap. Fortunately, no one was killed.

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

Update: 28 people, including 21 South Korean tourists, are reported dead or missing from the Hableany.

The Christian Science Monitor writes Sinking of South Korean Tourist Boat Raises Safety Concerns.

According to gCaptain: The Hungarian police “said a criminal investigation was under way to determine the cause of the accident. Police declined to say if the bigger vessel, the 135-meter (443 ft) Viking Sigyn, put out any signals for help. Police said its investigation yielded evidence that raised personal responsibility, so it questioned the Viking Sigyn captain, a 64-year-old Ukrainian, as a suspect, and later moved to take him into custody for reckless misconduct in waterborne traffic leading to mass casualties.”

The Daily Mail has a full range of photographs regarding the tragedy.

June 6, 2019 Update: The captain of the Viking river ship was also the master of the Viking Idun when it collided with a tanker in the Netherland two months ago, according to Hungarian prosecutors. He has been identified by police as “C. Yuriy” from Odessa. Ukraine.

Photo credit (Viking Freya incident): – CBC News.  Video credit: ATV Magyarország.

 

On Friday, May 24th, United District Court Judge Patricia Seitz, who is presiding over the pollution case pending against Princess Cruises, ordered all members of the Carnival Corporation & plc Executive Committee of the Board of Directors to appear at a hearing scheduled for June 3, 2019 at the federal courthouse in Miami.

The hearing will involve the Court’s consideration of a proposed joint resolution of the pending motion to revoke Carnival’s probation. The U.S. government filed the motion after the Court Appointed Monitor (CAM) prepared reports indicating that certain Carnival related cruise lines have continued to engage in illegal discharges from Carnival-owned cruise ships in violation of pollution laws and the terms and conditions of probation.

The parties have apparently reached a proposed “comprehensive resolution” of the issues related to the U.S. government’s motion to revoke Carnival’s probation.  The parties will be seeking the Court’s approval of the proffered resolution proposal at the upcoming hearing.

At the hearing on June 3rd, Judge Seitz will review the proposed agreement (which has not been filed in the public record and the details of which are not currently known to the public) and will confer with the Court Appointed Monitor (CAM), the Third Party Auditor (TPA), and the Office of Probation about the proposed resolution. The Court also ruled that:

“all members of the Carnival Corporation & plc Executive Committee of the Board of Directors shall appear in person at the June 3, 2019 hearing to discuss the proposed joint resolution of the specifications in the Superseding Petition. This includes Mickey (sic) Arison, Arnold Donald, and Stuart Subotnick.”

Micky Arison, of course, is Carnival Corporation’s Chairman of the Board of the cruise company his father founded, and Carnival’s largest shareholder with a net worth of over $8,500,000,000. He stepped down as Carnival’s CEO after 30 years in 2013 following the Costa Concordia disaster. He was replaced as the CEO by Arnold Donald who had served on Carnival Corporation’s Board of Directors for over a decade. Mr. Subotnick, the third member of the executive committee, is the President and CEO of Metromedia Company. He has been a director of Carnival Corporation since 1987, and a director of Carnival plc since 2003.

In April, Judge Seitz expressed her displeasure over Carnival’s continued pollution. She reprimanded Carnival Corp.’s chairman, Micky Arison, and its president Arnold Donald, neither of whom were present at the hearing, stating that she regretted not being able to send the executives to a few days in detention. She stated that “the people at the top are treating this as a gnat. . . ”

Judge Seitz stated previously that she will rule whether Carnival Corp.’s behavior warrants additional fines and/or other punishment. She characterized her previous sanction of $40,000,000 as a “drop in the bucket.”  She also  threatened to block the company from docking its one hundred cruise ships at U.S. ports.

In an informal poll a month ago, two-thirds of those responding chose sanctions of $250,000,000 or more, or jail time for the executives, or both, to punish Carnival Corp. for its ongoing pollution and violation of its terms of probation. Carnival Corp. collected over $3,200,000,000 tax-free in 2018.

It remains to be seen what type of proposed resolution the U.S. government has agreed to with this recidivist criminal corporation. (At the last hearing, Judge Seitz stated “The defendant is a criminal. It is a recidivist criminal”).

After all, the government originally agreed to just a $40 million dollar fine, which was hardly sufficient to send a message to Carnival. The fine was a pittance given Carnival’s enormous wealth and considering the egregious nature of Princess Cruises’ widespread and lengthy pollution and it’s intentional cover-up, obstruction of justice and ongoing deceptive conduct.

It is difficult to imagine Carnival agreeing to any type of significant financial penalty despite the seriousness of its ongoing pollution.

The hearing is set for June 3, 2019 at 2:00 p.m. in Courtroom 12-4, 400 North Miami Avenue in Miami.

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

You can read the Court Appointed Monitor’s reports below:

Photo credit: local10.com

 

Several news sources in Alaska are reporting that two seaplanes (a/k/a floatplanes) involved in an excursion from the Royal Princess cruise ship crashed this afternoon in an apparent mid-air collision near Ketchikan.

Initial reports indicate that three cruise passengers died in the crash. The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for three other people following the crash of the two planes in the George Inlet area. A total of 16 people were reportedly on the two planes, and 10 people are accounted for, according to the Anchorage Daily News. The article indicated that the guests involved came off the Royal Princess,  which left Vancouver on Saturday and is scheduled to return to Vancouver on May 25th after calling on several ports in Alaska.

Princess Cruises states that ten guests from the cruise ship and a pilot were in a floatplane operated by Taquan Air returning from a Misty Fjords tour. A second floatplane carrying four people from the ship on an independent tour was also involved in the accident. Ten patients were admitted to a hospital in Ketchikan.  According to its promotional information, Princess Cruises offers three floatplane excursions to its guests in Ketchikan:

  • KTN – 815 – A Discovery Exclusive – Misty Fjords Seaplane & Crab Feast;
  • KTN – 810 – Misty Fjords Wilderness Cruise & Flight; and
  • KTN – 800 – Misty Fjords National Monument by Seaplane (with Wilderness Landing).

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are investigating the accident.

Four years ago, in June of 2015,  eight Holland America Line (HAL) cruise passengers were killed when the sightseeing airplane they booked through HAL crashed near Ketchikan, Alaska. The pilot of the charter plane and all eight cruise passengers from HAL’s Westerdam died when the plane crashed about 20 miles northeast of Ketchikan. The aircraft reportedly hit the granite rock face of a southeast Alaska cliff. You can read the NTSB report regarding that accident here.

A cruise passenger, Kattey Ortiz, who was on another Princess Cruises ship in Ketchikan, recorded the message of the accident from the ship’s captain.

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

May 15, 2019 Update: According to a news station in Alaska, a preliminary FAA report identifies the registered owner of the second seaplane involved in the collision (a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver) as Mountain Air Services LLC. Four Princess passengers were aboard this smaller seaplane operated by an independent tour operator.

May 16, 2019 Update: Profiles of the five cruise passengers and one of the pilots who were killed in the collision is detailed in this report from the Associated Press.

Photo credit: Princess Cruises – seaplane excursion.