This weekend was the ten year anniversary of this blog. The first day of publishing Cruise Law News was September 15, 2009.

Over the last decade, I’ve published 3,075 articles about cruise ship related issues.  An average of over two million people read around two million pages of Cruise Law News a year.  It is the most widely read legal blog in the world published by a full time lawyer, with an Alexa ranking of 110,000.

My blog led to the Cruise Law twitter feed, @CruiseLaw, which we started in February of 2012. Later, we began our popular Facebook page in December of 2012.

There are currently 266,432 subscribers to this blog and/or people who follow Cruise Law on Twitter or follow us on our Facebook page.

The motto of this blog is “everything cruise lines don’t want you to know.” Like cruise lines overworking and underpaying crew members while avoiding taxes and U.S. wage and labor laws.  Like cruise ships throwing bags filled with oily rags overboard or crew members being instructed to hide dirty pots and pans and trollies full of food in the crew member cabins and hallways. I write about issues which cruise lines and travel agents prefer that the public not know about.

If your prefer looking at glossy photographs of romatic trips to the Caribbean or reading puff pieces about dream cruise vacations, Cruise Law News is not for you.

Thank you for reading Cruise Law News and following us on Twitter and Facebook! I remember the first article which I wrote a decade ago which was read by less than 100 people.  I owe the success of this blog to the readers that have supported me over these many years.

We depend on crew members and the cruising public to send us information regarding what is really going on.  If you have news about unsafe conditions facing passengers and crew members or other issues of concern to you, like cruise ship pollution, we’d like to hear from you. Unless you instruct us otherwise, we keep all sources of information confidential and anonymous.

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Switching Sides And Finding Your Soul.

Several cruise passengers have stated that a jet flew closely over the Harmony of the Seas earlier this evening (around 5:30 P.M. Miami time). At the time of the incident, the Royal Caribbean ship was reportedly “North of Cuba but closer to the Florida Keys.”

The person who initially contacted me from the ruise ship stated that “around 530 pm Miami time it sounded like a jet plane flew about 10 feet above the top of ship. Everyone on the port ran out to their balconies to see what happened. We have pic that looks like smoke off in the distance. No announcements made . . . Lots of passengers yelling from balcony to balcony asking what happened.”

I then checked on Twitter to see if anyone was mentioning the incident. At least one other passenger was tweeting the following:

It seems unusual that the Master of the cruise ship would not make an announcement.

This is not the first time that a jet buzzed a cruise ship.

In June of 2016, Celebrity Master Kate McCue posted on her Instagram page a videotape of a jet making a low high speed pass close to the Celebrity Summit.

A few days later a jet buzzed the Norwegian Breakaway. We reported on the incident after a passenger sent us a video (screen grab right).  The YouTube video of the fly-by has been taken down but you can see the dramatic indident on this Fox News video.

There are a large number of guests on the Harmony posting photographs of this evening’s sunset on Twitter and remarking how much they enjoyed the cruise. But there seems to be just one person mentioning the dramatic fly-by on Twitter so far.

Setember 15, 2019 Update: Some of the comments left on our Facebook page  seem to dispute the accounts above (but see the comments below).  Royal Caribbean Master Johnny Faevelen responded to the first tweet (since deleted) about the incident:

If you saw or heard the jet fly-by, let us hear from you in the comment section below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Cruise ships are a major source of air pollution which causes and/or contributes to a wide range of serious health problems such as respiratory ailments, lung disease, cancer and premature deaths. The pollutants from ship engines exhaust gases include sulfer  oxides(SOx) as well as non-combustible particulate matter and black carbon. A video of a Carnival cruise ship, the Carnival Victory (shown below), belching bunker fuel fumes in port in Nassau a couple of months ago was widely distributed via PTZtv. It should have been an embarrasing spectacle by a cruise line on probation here in Miami for widespread water and air pollution.

Heavy fuel oil (HFO), sometimes referred to as bunker fuel, has historically been a low cost favorite of cruise ships. HFO has tar-like consistency which results from the residue of crude oil distillation  HFO is contaminated with several different compounds including sulfur and nitrogen, which makes HFO emissions far more toxic compared to low sulfur fuels.

Bunker Fuel – the “Dirtest Fuel of All”

Forbes reports that the German watchdog Nabu surveyed 77 cruise ships and found that all but one used toxic heavy fuel oil that the group described as “dirtiest of all fuels.”

Bunker fuel cannot be used without incombustible particles flying all over the place – not unlike burning a tire – with the residue burrowing deep into the mucous membranes of your lungs. It should be considered to be a public nuisance and banned as such. No one reading this article would burn bunker fuel in their house, or subject their neighbors to this toxic pollutant.  Bunker fuel is the nastiest and most toxic fuel you can use. But this fuel is the cornerstone of the cruise industry.

The IMO’s 0.5% Cap

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted a sulfur cap to reduce the dangerous effects of HFO. The IMO will theoretically enforce the cap as of  January 1, 2020 when shipping companies will be required to switch from heavy fuel oil to 0.5 percent low-sulfur fuel, compared with the current 3.5 percent.  (Some Emission Control Areas have stricter caps).  But the IMO permitted a loophole requested by the shipping industry. A cruise line can continue to use the lower cost but high-sulfur fuel, as long as they install an exhaust gas cleaning system (EGCS), (i.e., a “scrubber”) on each ship to maintain emissions at the same levels as low-sulfur fuel.

A scrubber works by spraying alkaline water (usually seawater) into the vessel’s exhaust stacks, which is designed to reduce reduce carbon, sulfur oxide (SOx) emissions, and non-combustible particles from bunker fuel from the ship’s engine exhaust gases.

Money, Money, Money

The cruise industry is highly profitable. It is preoccupied with keeping its costs artificially low. The cruise business model avoids taxes, underpays crew members and provides them with few benefits, and externalizes virtually all costs of doing business. Avoiding higher fuel costs is a fundamental part of its business, irrespective of the damage caused to the environment and injury to its passengers, crew members and shore-side communities.

Around half of the cruise lines have decided to use scrubbers to comply with the new IMO rules. In other words, they have made a decision to refuse to incur the higher cost of low-sulfer fuel.

Cruise Lines Dodge Environmental Regulations with “Emission Cheat” Systems 

Many prople call scrubbers “emissions cheat” systems, which are designed to avoid the shipping industry having to buy cleaner, more expensive fuel. The Guardian newspaper called them an  “environmental dodge.” As explained by Bloomberg Businessweek, in an article published yesterday, scrubbers allow ship owners to continue buying cheaper high-sulfur fuel.  In the most used system, known as open loop, the waste water is discharged into the ocean. The more expensive closed-loop systems require storage of waste water to be discharged into a facility on shore, according to the Guardian. Bloomberg Businessweek points out that about half of the 268 cruise ships operated by members of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) reportedly have installed scrubbers.  “Scrubbers effectively turn air pollution into water pollution,” says Kendra Ulrich, of environmental group Stand.earth.

Toxic Scrubber Sludge

The pollutants which scrubbers remove from the air are called “scrubber sludge” or simply “sludge,” an accurate description of the toxic mix of metals, such as lead, nickel and zinc, as well as hydrocarbons, sulfur, and nitrogen compounds which have been sprayed from the ship’s emission stacks.  The scrubbing also removes non-combustible particles such as soot, incompletely burned oil, and ash. The water used to spray the emission stacks become acidic and is dumped back into the ocean in the open-loop systems. The sludge residue must be collected during closed loop operations and stored aboard the ship. The cruise companies are then required to dispose of the sludge at suitable shoreside facilities. Cruise lines are also requireed to maintain logs documenting the storage and disposal of the washwater residue.  But some cruise lines are suspected of dumping the sludge at sea.

Turning Air Pollution Into Water Pollution

Travel Weekly writes that “questions are being raised about where all the pollution that’s being removed from cruise ship exhaust is ending up.” Travel Weekly mentioned a case where it appears that a Princess Cruises cruise ship piped the scrubber sludge overboard while in the port of Ketchican last July. Port employees observed discharges coming from the Star Princess cruise ship in Ketchikan, Alaska and took photographs which showed  “darkened splotches in the water. One shows a patch of lumpy black material floating near a piling.”

Princess Cruises, which is under probation for wide spread pollution and repeated lies to the Coast Guard and other agencies, denied any wrongdoing, stating: “Our experts believe what was viewed and photographed is most likely sea foam discolored by natural microorganisms such as algae in the seawater, which is commonly experienced in northern climates in the summer season.”

Some Ports Ban Open Loop Scrubbers

According to Travel Weekly, nearly a dozen environmental groups petitioned the IMO to prohibit the use of scrubbers. They argued that the technology isn’t always reliable, “citing an audit of the Carnival fleet from 2017-18 that turned up 30 examples of scrubbers that either weren’t turned on or had unexpectedly shut down in areas where sulfur emissions were already capped.” These environmental groups have roundly criticized the cruise industry’s plans to continue to burn high-sulfur fuel and its use of scrubbers, and have asked regulators to adopt the use of low-sulfur fuel as the only allowable method of complying with the new IMO regulations. Several international ports (but not all) have outlawed the use of scrubbers, which has alarmed cruise lines that have invested heavily in the use of scrubbers.

Carnival’s Advanced Air Quality is an Emission Cheat System

Carnival Corporation has embarked on a public relations campaign with a pro-scrubber website. Carnival argues that scrubbers, which it calls “Advanced Air Quality Systems,” are an effective way to reduce sulfur dioxide and other pollutants.

But trusting Carnival and its related brands, like Princess and Holland America Line (HAL)(which was just fined yesterday for discharging untreated grey water into Glacier Bay National Park) to comply with environmental laws seems perilous. Carnival brands have a long history of illegally discharging oily water, chemicals, bilge water, grey water, chemicals, and food mixed with plastic items, trash and garbage from numerous ships around the world, even while on probation. Given the tendency of Carnival owned ships to dump waste products overboard, rather than incurring the expenses of collecting, storing and properly disposing the pollutants ashore, the dumping of scrubber sludge seems to be a certainty.

Other cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line, also have a history of pollution. They have both pleaded guilty to multiple environmental felonies. Royal Caribbean was seemingly the first cruise line where engineers perfected secret bypass valves (later widely used on Princess cruise ships) which permitted ship employees to bypass the oily water seperators and discharge the oil directly overboard. Royal Caribbean’s use of these illegal devices eventually ended only after it was caught repeatedly violating its probation for pollution and was fined a total of $27,000,000.

Royal Caribbean’s Advanced Emission Purification is Another Emission Cheat System

Royal Caribbean calls scrubbers “Advanced Emission Purification” systems which have been installed in the original build of of its largest ships like the Harmony of the Seas and the Symphony of the Seas and retrofitted on many ships in its fleet over the last several years.  Watch the videos produced by Royal Caribbean “Cruising Into The Future: Royal Caribbean Initiates Advanced Emissions Purification Plans” and “Sustainability At Sea.” Royal Caribben states that between 500 and 1,500 tons of seawater and additives are sprayed into each of two emission stacks on a typical ship per hour to try and clean the emission of pollutants. Sulfur, heavy metals, and other toxic wastes are either washed overboard or collected as sludge after many thousands of tons or water are sprayed in the stacks of these ships which are still burning high-sulfur fuel.

Smoke or Water-Vapor? Either Way Cruise Ships Create Scrubber Sludge 

Earlier this week, a reader of this blog videotaped the Symphony of the Seas leaving the port of St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. He posted the video on YouTube (below) with the caption “Royal Caribbean Smoke Show.”  The video is sure to create the usual debate every time I post a video of a cruise ship burning high-sulfer bunker fuel bellowing smoke from its funnels. Defenders of the polluting cruise industry (and an ocassional engineer or two employed on cruise ships) will inevitably comment that the videos do not show engine gases but condensed water vapor from the scrubber operations.

My thought is that even if what we are seeing from the Symphony of the Seas is water vapor and not smoke, the ship is creating vast quantities of toxic sludge which is either routinely discharged as waste water or, hopefully, stored on the ship until it can be later disposed of ashore.

In an industry well known for taking environmental shortcuts to save money, Carnival and Royal Caribbean cannot be trusted not to dump the toxic sludge into the oceans.

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

We suggest reading:

The Gurdian Thousands of Ships Could Dump Pollutants at Sea to Avoid Dirty Fuel Ban.

Bloomberg Businessweek Cruise Ship Companies Are Finding It Hard to Quit Carbon.

Video and photo credit:

Video of Carnival Victory – PTZtv; photo of scrubber sludge – City of Ketchikan, Alaska; video of Symphony of the Seas – Red Oaks YouTube.

The State of Alaska yesterday fined Holland America Line (HAL) around $17,000 for dumping untreated grey water from one of its cruise ships.

NPR reported that HAL’s Westerdam cruise ship was visiting the national park a year ago, on September 11, 2018, when a crew member illegally discharged grey water.  Details of the illegal dumping are contained in the Alaskan Notice of Violation. The notice claims that the discharge was a “mistake,” but the discharge continued on for 25 minutues.

The HAL ship reportedly discharged around 22,500 gallons of untreated water into the national park. Cruise ships are required to store grey water until they are outside of Alaskan waters.

Grey water comes from the kitchens, dishwaters, showers, laundries, and bath & washbasin drains on ships. According to the Ocean Conservancy,  gray water discharges into the marine environment “can lead to oxygen depletion, spread pathogenic bacteria and viruses and increase nutrient levels in the surrounding ecosystem. Higher nutrient levels can lead to toxic algal blooms and dead zones that can cause harmful disturbances throughout food chains. People consuming food from the sea can contract a range of illnesses from contaminated waters, which is of particular concern in the Arctic considering the number of indigenous peoples whose diet is heavily dependent on marine species.”

Cruise ships are also prohibited from discharging anything within park boundaries.

The National Park Service also fined the cruise line $250 over the incident.

Grey water is a significant waste streams generated by cruise ships which also include:
  • bilge water (water that collects in the lowest part of the ship’s hull and contains oil, grease and other contaminants);
  • sewage;
  • ballast water (water taken onboard or discharged from a vessel to maintain stability); and
  • solid waste (food waste and garbage).

HAL’s owner Carnival Corporation has been fined $80,000,000 in the last three years for widespread illegal oil pollution and discharge of grey water, oily bilge water, chemicals, and plastic items mixed together with food waste and garbage.

KCAW reported that the settlement agreement was signed by Kelly W. Clark, an in-house lawyer and assistant to HAL’s CEO Stein Kruse. Unlike the settlement agreement approved by Judge Patricia Seitz in the U.S. v. Princess Cruises case (no. 16-cr-20897 pending in Miami), where Carnival CEO Arnold Donald was sworn in during open court and forced to admit that Carnival Corporation committed widespread illegal environmental crimes, the settlement agreement in the HAL case states that the cruise line “does not admit to any, and hereby denies all, of the factual allegations or legal claims set forth herein.”

Last year, we reported that four Holland America Line (HAL) cruise ships were among the ships which violated Alaska’s air quality standards throughout the cruise season’s summer months (June-August) in Alaska.  The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) cited HAL’s Eurodam, Westerdam, Amsterdam, and Nieuw Amsterdam. The DEC also issued wastewater discharge violations to HAL’s Eurodam, Noordam, and Voledam.

In the Princess Cruise / Carnival Corporation pollution case, the U.S. government also notified Judge Seitz that HAL’s Nieuw Amsterdam had been continuously discharging grey water for several years in Alaska (as of June 2017) and knowingly failed to notify the state of Alaska. The Court was also informed that an engineer falsified maintenance records involving the oil content monitoring system on the Westerdam in September 2018.

HAL’s pollution troubles can be dated back to 1998 when it was fined $2,000,000 after it was caught discharging oily water without the use of an oil-water separator.

The $17,000 fine is a pittance given Carnival and HAL’s enormous revenues and tax-free profits. It is particularly disappointing that HAL was permitted to deny that it illegally discharged grey water and deny legal responsibiity for the crime. Grey water is clearly harmful to the marine environment. HAL’s act of dumping it into the pristine waters of Glacier Bay is outrageous. HAL ships should have been banned from entering the national park and its parent company should have been fined millions of dollars.

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Photo credit:

Westerdam cruise ship – Alaska Public Media

Glacier Bay – National Park Service

 

A twenty-six year old crew member reportedly fell off of the side of the Vision of the Seas while performing maintenance work this morning, according to an Italian news source.

The news source states that the crew member died and that divers subsequently located his body.

The cruise line was not following “work aloft” procedures which required the crew member to wear personal protection equipment (PPE), which should have included a safety harness among other safety equipment. The procedures outlined in the Royal Caribbean safety quality manual (SQM) should have obligated the crew member’s supervisor, department head and safety officer to have signed off that the crew member was adequately trained and familar with the necessary safety equipment.

The company was also required to have completed a job safety analysis (JSA) which should have outlined the risks of injury and/or death which the job presented and the steps taken by the cruis eline to mitigate against the risks.

The last crew member who went overboard and was apparently was not wearing PPE involved a Carnival crew member who fell off of the Carnival Victory last year.

This is the 349th person who has gone overboard from a cruise ship since 2000, according to Dr. Ross Klein’s data.

This crew member was a Filipino national, like many Royal Caribbean crew members. Filipino seafarers are subject to the Philippines Overseas Employment Act (POEA) which heavily restricts the compensation owed to Filipino crew members who are killed due to the negligence of their employers.  The loved ones of a Filipino crew member cannot file a lawsuit in the U.S. before a judge and a jury and must pusue “arbitration” in Manila pursuant to the POEA. The maximum recovery for the estate of a dead Filipino mariner  is just $50,000 and $7,500 for each surviving child.

Such compensation is hardly adequate to hold negligent cruise lines responsible for their negligence.

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

I first learned of this accident upon reading Fleetmon.com account by Mikhail Voytenko. 

September 13, 2019 Update: This article (translate with Google Chrome) states that the deceased Royal Caribbean crew member was identified as Marvin Galero, who reportedly was the third of 9 siblings, married with a 3-year-old child. The article states that “four people including the captain of the ship will also be investigated in a possible manslaughter case.”

September 14. 2019 Update: The Inquirer in the Philippines published a photograph (left) of  Marvin Galero and indicated that he allegedly worked as a seafarer for three years.

Photo credit: Vision of the Seas – Livorno Fire Brigade; Marvin Galero – Inquirer.

 

Hasan Minjah of Netflix’s Patriot Act takes a hard look at the popular cruise industry. He touches upon many issues which should make even the hardest core cruise fan feel uneasy: polluted air and water, garbage mixed with plastic items and dumped into Bahamian waters, abuse of crew members, and cruise lines like Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean which all based in Miami but which incorporate themselves in countries like Panama and Liberia and register their cruise ships in feckless countries like the Bahamas to avoid U.S. taxes and wage and labor laws.

Hasan uses his humerous personal style to discuss very serious isues. Like the fact that seafarers from the Philippines are forced to accept skimpy compensation payments for the most serious of personal injuries (like just $5,000 for the loss of an ear).  He touches on the notorious Death on the High Seas Act (“DOHSA”) which permits cruise lines to escape virtually all accountability when a passenger or crew member dies on the high seas due to the cruise ship’s negligence.

MARSS announced today via Seatrade Cruse News that it secured a contract for the installation of MOBtronic, its advanced man overboard detection and tracking system onboard a new cruise ship due for operation later this year.

“The contract includes the installation of a network of MOBtronic marinised pods that are strategically positioned to cover the volume around the entire vessel, creating a virtual shield which automatically detects and classifies a man-overboard event.

The system features a patented configuration of sensors that reliably detect a fall and notify crew when a man overboard event occurs. Using a combination of multi-sensor data and MARSS proprietary software, MOBtronic provides alerts, live tracking and video playback via an intuitive user interface to aid crew in managing SAR operations and to analyse a MOB incident.

MOBtronic is unique with its exceptionally low false positive rate (less than 1 per day) often caused by birds, breaking waves and other objects, significantly reduces false alarms and ensures a >95% detection rate.

MOBtronic complies with the current recommendations of the ISO PAS draft with a proven probability of detection in excess of 95 and false alarm rates of less than 0.3 a day.”

Thee company’s online materials explain that MOBtronic utilises the same multi-sensor approach to automatically detect and alert operators to people climing or otherside ascending the side of a vessel in order to detect intruders for security purposes.

Missing from the press release is any mention which cruise ship the system will be installed on. Most cruise lines keep this type of information secret.

There are many effective MOB systems on the market, but few such systems actually installed on cruise ships to date.

Two years ago, MSC Cruises announced that it installed a state-of-the-art man overboard system on the MSC Meraviglia and was planning to deploy similar systems across its fleet of cruise ships. The company’s announcement cam via Seatrade Cruise News that MSC Cruises developed an “intelligent video capturing and analysis system” in collaboration with security technology experts, Bosch and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

Most cruise lines and their trade organizations, the Cruise Line International Organizations (CLIA), have unreasonably resisted the move toward this life-saving technology, citing a myriad of excuses (alleging the cost and unreliability of the technology) which are belied by the success of the systems which are available on the market today.

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Image credit: MARSS

A seventy-four year old retired electrician ia reportedly missing from the Genting Dream cruise ship, according to a newspaper in Singapore.

Cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein identifies Mr. Goh Hai Peng as the missing passenger who left Singapore on the Genting cruise ship on August 4th. The four-day, three-night cruise included stops on the islands of Penang and Langkawi in Malaysia on Aug 5th and 6th.

Mr. Goh’s son, Mr. Adrian Goh, who did not treavel with his father, stated that the cruise ship’s surveillance footage showed his father entering his cabin at about 7 p.m on the first day of the trip. (His father was supposed to go on the cruise with his wife, but because she reportedly had to look after their grandchild). That was the first and last time Mr. Goh was seen in the video footage, which did not show him leaving his cabin during the entire cruise.  Surveillance cameras also captured a figure falling into the sea at about 3 a.m. the following day, according to Dream Cruise which oeperates the Genting Dream.

Dream Cruises confirmed that Mr. Goh is missing from its cruise ship although his belongings were found  in the cabin, which opens into a balcony. Adrian Goh reportedly said employees of Dream Cruises returned his father’s belongings.  Dream Cruises did not tell his family information such as the extent of the search and rescue operation or the ship’s surveillance footage until about a week later. “For all we know, our father could still be alive and adrift somewhere in the Malacca Strait, and it seems as if he had been left for dead.”

He also added that his “father was neither a gambler nor drinker, and had not entered the ship’s casino. He also did not have health or financial problems.”

There have been 348 people who have gone overboard since 2000, according to cruise expert Dr. Klein.

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Credit: Top – The New Newspaper; bottom – Sapphire Jasper – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.

A man reportedly went overboard from Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas last night, according to a passenger on the cruise ship.  His twitter account contains a graphic reference to the recovery of the overboard man’s body by a rescue boat. The passenger states that the person apparently went overboard around 3:00 a.m. last night, as the cruise ship was sailijng from St. Kitts to St Thomas, US Virgin Islands.

There is a second video poster online which shows the deceased man in the rescue boat, which we are not posting here. It is currently unknown whether the overboard person was a passenger or a crew member.

Royal Caribbean is one of the cruise lines which have not installed automatic man overboard systems, like this or this, which would instantly send a signal to the bridge when someone goes over the rails. Sophisticated motion detectors will signal an alarm when the person goes overboard. Radar and infrared technology will then track the person in the water, even at night, increasing the prospects of a successful search and rescue.

Royal Caribbean says that the technology is not reliable, according to a comprehensive article written by Rosie Spinks for Quartz titled People fall off cruise ships with alarming regularity. Can anything be done to stop it?

According to cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein, there have been 347 people who have gone overboard from cruise ships since 2000.

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August 14, 2019 Update: Royal Caribbean, which does not respond to our requests for information, issued a statement to the popular Cruise Hive:

“We are deeply saddened by the tragic incident that occurred on the Symphony of the Seas en route to Saint Thomas this morning. Our hearts go out to the family and loved ones for their loss, and our care team is providing support and assistance during this difficult time.

Upon the initial report that an Australian adult male had gone overboard, our ship immediately turned, launched a rescue boat, and conducted a full-scale search. We are working closely with authorities and will continue to assist in their investigation.”

August 15, 2019 Update: Australian Cruise Ship Passenger Falls Off Royal Caribbean Boat, Videos Deleted From Twitter.

August 16, 2019 Update: Sun Man who died going overboard on Royal Caribbean cruise revealed as boss of top UK firm Rockstar Jonathan Pfahl.

Video credit: @Josh_Mackey15 via Twitter; Symphony of the Seas – Darthvadrouw – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.

A week ago we posted an article which showed the Carnival Victory belching thick black smoke into the air while it was still moored at the Princess George wharf in Nassau.

Carnival was also recently caught illegally burning heavy fuel oil in protected areas on 19 occasions, according to the Miami Herald. The Herald has consistently covered the DOJ’s investigation into the environmental record of the cruise giant which has resulted in $60,000,000 in fines in the last three years.

Carnival also admitted that in July of 2017, 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. The DOJ’s investigation revealed that the Carnival ships often discharge large quantities of plastic items mixed with trash and garbage, in Bahamian waters among other locations. The Miami Herald also reported that the majority of the 500,000 gallons of treated sewage illegally dumped from Carnival owned ships occurred in Bahamian waters.

A resident of Nassau posted a comment to my article showing the Carnival Victory spewing heavy smoke over the port and downtown Nassau, asking “Can Carnival just stop bringing their floating toilets to our country please?”

Four months ago, the Bahamas’ Minister of Transport said that the government will allegedly undertake a “comprehensive” review into the “disturbing” report regarding the discharge of plastic items from Carnival ships. The Miami Herald mentioned that the minister issued a statement that “as the port and coastal state in which the violations may have occurred, the Bahamas will investigate and take measures as appropriate.”  There is no indication that such an investigation has taken place to date. It remains to be seen whether the Bahamian government will conduct any genuine investigation into Carnival’s bad behaviour, but there is considerable evidence already that Carnival’s malfeasance has already inflicted substantial damage on the Bahamas.

The U.S. Government’s Quarterly Status Report, dated April 8, 2019, states that the Carnival Elation, which was regularly sailing from Jacksonville to numerous locations in the Bahamas, including Nassau, Freeport and Princess Cay, “knowingly and deliberately” discharged plastic items from the ship, which it characterized as “one of the most significant violations of probation.”  That constitutes a clear violation of MARPOL Annex V and is a 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 overseeing its probation 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.”

But Roger Frizzell, a spokesman for Carnival Corp., was quoted in the Miami Herald as claiming that “the dumping had no negative impact to marine life or people.”

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 photo to the bottom right, showing plastic and waste items mixed together in a pulper system on a Carnival ship which dumped the waste in Bahamian waters, was filed by the U.S. Government in the pending pollution case filed against Carnival.

The Government also referred in its recent report to several other Carnival owned ships (the Carnival Conquest, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Magic, and Carnival Vista) which discharged plastic and other non-food items overboard in Bahamian waters. 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 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. 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 Bahamas has a profound interest in protecting its air and water from such abuses by the cruise industry. But the Bahamas essentially has no mechanism to enforce international pollution laws when cruise ships pollute its waters, even when the ships are flying the flag of the Bahamas.

Complicating matters is the fact 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,” according to the Nassau Tribune. 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.” Motivating the Bahamas to enact and enforce Bahamian environment laws and regulations seems to be fraught with potential problems of politicians pandering to Carnival or other U.S. based cruise lines.

Disney Cruises, for example, is the latest cruise line to be given the green light by the Bahamas to proceed with developing Bahamian land and water, apparetnly with little environmental oversight.  Disney plans to develop the southern portion of the island of Eleuthera into a private destination. Lighthouse Point will be turned from an undeveloped natural preserve into Disney’s private cruise port. There are concerns that the dock and pier planned by Disney for the area will require the island to be dredged.

The Bahamas is not requiring any revenue sharing with Disney. The Bahamas will not collect any income taxes or real property taxes which would would benefit the Bahamas. The Bahamas is about to lose one of its last unspoiled sites in exchange for Disney’s unenforceable promise that it may hire Bahamians in the future.

The Bahamas has already faced the indignity of having the Federal court here in Miami reject the motion to intervene in the pollution case filed on behalf of Fotini “Sam” Tsavousis Duncombe, who is the co-founder of a Bahamas Environmental group called “reEarth,” as well as other individuals and entities in Alaska affected by Carnival’s pollution.  Ms. Duncombe represented 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.

Carnival executives promise that the cruise corporation will do better. Of course, Carnival has lied before, even before U.S. District Court judges overseeing their probation for widespread pollution.  Carnival will likely get caught again engaging in dumping plastics, or oil, or untreated grey water, or untreated sewage, or sludge from its emissions scrubbers, or trash and garbage, in the pristine waters of the Bahamas, and it will likely lie again. The Bahamas should realize that it is dealing with what the federal district judge here in Miami presiding over the pollution case called a “recidivist criminal” which has continually engaged in world-wide pollution and repeatedly lied about it.

The U.S. courts have seemed reluctant to impose a meaningful fine to stop Carnival’s environmental recklessness, and have even refused to recognize a Bahamian citizen as a victim of Carnival’s malfeasance. Until a Bahamian court (and other courts in the Caribbean) imposes a stiff fine against this billion dollar giant, rather than just a minimal slap on the wrist like the U.S. courts have done, the Bahamas will remain a dumping ground where Carnival ships can discharge plastic waste in its beautiful waters and burn high sulfur bunker fuel in its beautiful skies with impunity.

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August 18, 2019 Update: Nassau Tribune: Insight: Are We Being Lulled To Sleep On Carnival’S Ocean Dumping?

Image credit: PTZtv – video of Carnival Victory; pulper system – Court Appointed Monitor; Carnival Elation and Half Moon Cay – Miami Herald via Twitter.