A newspaper in the Bahamas recently covered the news regarding Miami federal district judge Patricia Seitz threatening to temporarily ban Carnival-owned cruise ships from calling on U.S. ports.
The Tribune newspaper in Nassau points out that Carnival is building what it describes as a $100-million mega cruise port in Grand Bahama, and the company “promised it would not hurt the island’s fragile environment.” Carnival is reportedly leasing 329 acres of Bahamian land in an area known as Sharp Rock in East Grand Bahama, which the newspaper describes as an “eco-sensitive zone.” The Tribune writes that Carnival executive Giora Israel (Carnival Corp.’s Senior Vice President of Global Port & Destination Development) said the company is allegedly “big on protecting the environment.” She promised that “Carnival would not harm the environment during the construction phase, and would preserve 110 acres as a natural wetland.”
The Bahamian newspaper raised the issue, in so many words, whether Carnival can be trusted at this point? The newspaper discussed several examples of Carnival’s recent environmental crimes, including dumping gray water into Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park. This involved the Carnival owned Westerdam, operated by Holland America Line, which illegally dumped 26,000 gallons of gray water into Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska in September of 2018 and thereafter failed to immediately report the discharge.
While the Bahamian newspaper refers to the fouling of the pristine waters of Alaska, amazingly it does not mention the fact that Carnival was also polluting the beautiful waters of the Bahamas.
As the Miami Herald reported yesterday, cruise ships owned by Carnival Corporation illegally dumped more than 500,000 gallons of treated sewage and 11,000 gallons of food waste mixed with plastics, aluminum and other physical objects into the ocean during its first year on probation. The majority of the illegal dumping took place in the waters of the Bahamas.
The majority of treated sewage — 500,000 gallons — & food waste was dumped in Bahamian waters.
In one July 2017 instance, the Carnival Pride ship dumped 15 pounds of food waste into Half Moon Cay, the company’s private island used as a beach for cruise passengers. pic.twitter.com/FwTODvZGdM
— Taylor Dolven (@taydolven) April 16, 2019
The Tribune vaguely refers to the Carnival Elation which was discharging plastics and other non-food items overboard in December of 2018. Although the reports submitted by the parties do not mention the location of this illegal discharge, the fact of the matter is that the Carnival Elation was regularly sailing from Jacksonville to numerous locations in the Bahamas, including Nassau, Freeport and Princess Cay in December of 2018. It continues to do so today.
As covered by my previous article, Carnival pled guilty to pollution and is currently being monitored by a Third Party Auditor (TPA) which submits reports to the Court.
The Government’s Quarterly Status Report, dated April 8, 2019, stresses that the Carnival Elation “knowingly and deliberately” discharged plastic items from the ship, which it characterized as “one of the most significant violations of probation.” It constitutes a violation of MARPOL Annex V and potential felony violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships. The government auditor on the Elation informed the Carnival environmental officer that “plastic and other non-food items were mixed with the vessel’s food waste and that the garbage was not being properly segregated.” However, Carnival reportedly took no remedial measures and subsequently discharged the waste with the knowledge that it contained plastic waste. (This is undisputed by Carnival).
The Government explained to the Court that plastic pollution is likely the “most widespread pollution event adversely impacting the marine environment. The adverse impact is extensive and tragic. Virtually all species of marine wildlife, many of which are threatened or endangered, including seabirds, cetaceans (e.g., whales and dolphins), and sea turtles ingest plastic and then die of starvation because it clogs their stomachs. Plastic pollution in the ocean is of epidemic proportion and has the potential to threaten the health of the oceans, coral reefs, food safety and tourism.”
The photograph above to the left shows a “food waste chute” on a Carnival ship with clumps of food mixed with plastic, silverware and bottle caps. The photo was sent to this office by a Carnival crew member who wishes to remain anonymous. The photo shows how food and non-food items are routinely mixed together and then thrown into the chute to be dumped into the water.
The Government also referred to several other Carnival owned ships which discharged plastic and other non-food items overboard. These governmental filings state that the items included “plastic straws, plastic knives, rubber bands, plastic corn on the cob holders, broken plastic cups, paper clips, aluminum bottle caps, aluminum foil wrappers,” and other items. The Government believes that Carnival’s problems remain “ongoing” and “systemic” in nature.
The filings by Princess and the Court Appointed Monitor (CAM) also discussed another incident in November 2018 when the Carnival Conquest unlawfully discharged approximately 66,000 gallons of ballast water in the waters of the Bahamas. (It does not appear that the Bahamian newspaper realized that this also took place in the Bahamas). In this incident, a Carnival bridge officer reportedly offered to fabricate documents in order to cover up the illegality of the discharge by changing the time and location, so that it would appear to have been in an area where such discharges were allowed. The CAM informed the Court that the unlawful discharge occurred in “a prohibited area where the defendant has previously made other illegal discharges from multiple vessels.”
The First Annual Report of the Court Appointed Monitor (CAM) includes other references to illegal discharges in Bahamian waters:
- “Between June 4-27, 2017, the Carnival Elation discharged approximately 1,270 of treated sewage and 22 cubic meters of food waste in Bahamian Archipelagic waters in violation of MARPOL . . . “
- “. . . on June 15, 2017, the Carnival Conquest, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Magic, and Carnival Vista made prohibited discharges of sewage and food waste in Bahamian Archipelagic waters.”
- “. . . on November 27, 2017, the Carnival Vista discharged cleaning chemicals in Bahamian Archipelagic waters . . .”
The Court so far has permitted the filing of only CAM’s first year of pollution. The 2018-2019 report undoubtedly shows additional illegal discharges and pollution violations.
The Bahamas is a flag state where many hundreds of cruise ships are registered. The majority of cruise ships owned by Royal Caribbean fly the flag of the Bahamas in order to avoid U.S. income taxes as well as wage/labor law and safety regulations of the U.S. The Bahamas essentially has no mechanism to enforce international pollution laws when ships flying the flag of the Bahamas pollute the waters of the Bahamas. Carnival flags at least five of its ships in the Bahamas, including the Carnival Fascination, Carnival Imagination, Carnival Inspiration, Carnival Sensation and Carnival Triumph. (The majority of the Carnival owned ship such as the Carnival Elation and the Carnival Conquest mentioned above are registered in Panama, so that Carnival can avoid U.S. taxes, labor laws and safety regulations. Like the Bahamas, Panama has little interest in enforcing international pollution regulations such as MARPOL).
As Carnival continues to develop the cruise port in Grand Bahama, the Bahamas should realize that it is dealing with what the federal district judge in Miami presiding over the pollution case called a “recidivist criminal” which has engaged in world-wide pollution and repeatedly lied about it.
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The Miami Herald reporters, Taylor Dolven and Caitlin Ostroff, who are covering this issue analyzed numerous incidents during Carnival’s first year of probation after its 2016 conviction for dumping oily waste in the ocean. You can read their summary here.
Photo credit: Food waste chute on Carnival Cruise Line ship – anonymous crew member.