About two weeks ago, I posted the following question on our Cruise Law News Facebook page and received comments (and replies) from 364 people.

What do you believe is an appropriate sanction against Carnival Corp. for violating probation for pollution?

A. Imprison Carnival’s senior executives.
B. Bar Carnival Corp’s ships from U.S. ports.
C. A substantial fine ($250,000,000).
D. Another modest fine ($40,000,000).
E. An admonishment.
F.  Nothing, Carnival learned its lesson.
G. Nothing, Carnival did nothing wrong.

What do you believe is an appropriate sanction against Carnival Corp. for violating probation for pollution?A. …

Posted by Cruise Law News on Friday, April 19, 2019

Eighty-eight percent (88%) of those responding to this admittedly unscientific poll felt that Carnival Corp. deserved sanctions of some type.

The most popular choice was “C,” with over thirty-six percent (36%) of those selecting a “substantial fine ($250,000,000).” The next most popular choice was “A,” with over thirty-one percent (31%) selecting “imprison Carnival’s senior executives.”

The third choice of those participating was “B” – “bar Carnival Corp’s ships from U.S. ports,” which was supported by only fifteen percent (15%) of people responding. The most common explanation for those disapproving a fleet-wide ban of Carnival Corp. ships from U.S. ports was that this would hurt crew members, vendors and people associated with the ports.

Less than five percent (5%) chose a fine of  $40,000,000 (the amount of the last fine against Carnival Corp.) which was recently characterized as just a “drop in the bucket” by Judge Patricia Seitz, who is presiding over the Department of Justice’s case against Princess.  She entered this rather nominal financial penalty two years ago after Princess and Carnival Corp. entered guilty pleas for widespread pollution, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

Considering that Carnival Corp. collected profits of $3,200,000,000 last year, a fine of 40 million dollars is only 0.0125 of its enormous profits in 2018. As the Tribune newspaper wrote yesterday, “the only thing these cruise giants care about is the profits they generate. Carnival is no different . . .”

No one favored just an “admonishment.”

Only one person chose “F” – “nothing, Carnival learned its lesson.”

Of the few people selecting “G” – “nothing, Carnival did nothing wrong,” several were current or former Carnival employees.

Of those who decided that no sanctions were appropriate, many commented that “all cruise lines pollute, but only Carnival got caught.” The most popular comment for those not wanting Carnival to be sanctioned is “Carnival will simply pass along to the customer any monetary fines with the result that cruising will become more expensive.”  An equal number of those responding commented that the solution is to boycott Carnival or to stop cruising entirely.

Although there is no evidence that Carnival owned cruise ships are still dumping oil via secret “magic pipes” (which it pled guilty to involving a number of Princess Cruises ships for nearly a decade), the Court was presented with evidence that it is still illegally discharging sewage, chemicals, and plastics. The Court Appointed Monitor’s Report for Carnival Corp.’s first year of pollution was recently made public (which you can read here) and details the extent of Carnival’s ongoing pollution. The report reveals, among other environmental crimes, that:

  • The Carnival Corp. owned Westerdam, operated by Holland America Line,  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;
  • “Between June 4-27, 2017, the Carnival Elation discharged approximately 1,270 of treated sewage and 22 cubic meters of food waste and plastic 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 and plastics in Bahamian Archipelagic waters.”
  • “. . . on November 27, 2017, the Carnival Vista discharged cleaning chemicals in Bahamian Archipelagic waters . . .”
  • In July of 2017, the Carnival Pride dumped 15 pounds of food waste into Half Moon Cay;
  • In November 2018  the Carnival Conquest unlawfully discharged approximately 66,000 gallons of ballast water in the waters of the Bahamas.

The report also reveals that Carnival owned ships discharged plastic and other non-food items overboard, often 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 states that these discharges were intentional in nature and believes that Carnival Corp.’s problems remain “ongoing” and “systemic” in nature.

With two-thirds of those responding choosing sanctions of $250,000,000 or more, or jail time for the executives,  or both, there appears to be consensus that without a serious sanction, Carnival-owned and operated ships will keep polluting.

Popular comments to this poll include:

“A – unless people who make the decisions are made accountable they will continue to flout the law.”

“I’d also prefer the exec’s be sent to a few months of community service – cleaning oceans, picking up beaches, working as relief worker etc. Jailing would do nothing, but making them see and work to clean up the pollution created would be way more impactful.”

“A, plus a ban from Glacier Bay National Park … + mandatory permanent federal Ocean Rangers on all ships calling at any US Ports with cruise line picking up 100% costs and rigid program to ensure Ocean Rangers aren’t co-opted or otherwise compromised by cruise lines.”

“B – Carnival Corp could pay the penalty without a problem. So, the best way for they to learn is not letting then sail from any U.S. port. We only have one planet and those people just are focusing on make money and destroying the only planet that we have.”

“Well to be honest whatever the outcome is Carnival will pass if off to us customers just another reason for them to nickel and dime us again.”

“C- what is done for the money, must be paid with the money.”

“Carnival had a profit of $3.2 billion last year, so a 10% fine would be $320 million . . . The $250 million is nothing for them! Maybe both the 250 million and 40 million might be something! But then they will inflate cruise prices!”

“If Carnival had a $3.2 billion profit last year give them a fine of $575 million this should put a dent in their pockets. If it happen again $600 million fine and not let them do business in the US for about 1 yr.”

“C – Fines should be paid by each executive out of their own pocket.”

“They need to know this is serious business enough to make changes. A huge fine will be the initial sting, temporarily barring them from US ports will be the bite that sends them scrambling, and execs going to jail will be what makes them take it seriously from now on.”

You can read all of the comments here.

Judge Seitz will conduct a revocation hearing at a date in June when she will decide what if any sanctions she will impose. The parties recently communicated their availability to the Court for a 3-4 day hearing during the week of  Monday June 17, 2019.

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

Photo credit: Carnival Corp. Twitter page.