Today, the Federal District Court presiding over the pollution case against Princess Cruises ordered the public filing of several reports issued by the Court Appointed Monitor (“CAM”). The Miami Herald, which previously filed a motion to intervene into this case, requested that the Court order that the CAM’s quarterly reports for the past year be filed in the public record of this case. (You can read the motion here.)
Background of Pollution Violations
After Princess pled guilty in December of 2016 to serious, widespread and long-term pollution crimes, as well as conspiracy and obstruction of justice, the Court ordered Princess and all Carnival Corp. owned and/or operated cruise ships sailing in the United States to comply with an Environmental Compliance Plan (“ECP”), undergo audits, and be subject to supervision by the CAM.
The CAM’s First Annual Report
The Court previously filed into the public record the CAM’s First Annual Report (2017-2018) which covered the first year of operations after Carnival’s ships were placed on probation. Miami Herald reporters, Taylor Dolven and Caitlin Ostroff, covered the First Annual Report in detail. You can read their summary here.
CAM’s Last Quarterly Report
The CAM’s last quarterly report (dated April 2019), which was filed into the public record today, provides details of the discharge of plastic waste from several cruise ships operated by Carnival Cruise Line, among other issues. The government stated that Carnival Corp. “repeatedly” engaged in prohibited discharges, including the “knowing” illegal discharge of food contaminated with plastic waste and other non-food items.
According to the CAM report, last December an auditor sailing on the Carnival Elation observed food waste containers that “had other items such as plastic straws, plastic wrap, aluminum butter wrappers, wooden stir sticks and other miscellaneous items mixed in the food waste that was processed through the pulpers and into the food waste tanks, ready to be discharged while at sea.” This was confirmed with the environmental officer who agreed the food waste was not being segregated. However, the Carnival officer failed to take action and the food waste was discharged into the sea.
The auditors appended evidence to the Carnival Elation audit report, including the following photos (with their original captions):
The first two photographs are similar to the photograph (at bottom) of a “food waste chute” on a Carnival ship with clumps of food mixed with plastic, silverware and bottle caps. (The photo was sent to me by a Carnival employee who wishes to remain anonymous.)
The CAM explained that discharge of food waste contaminated with plastics and other non-food items is a violation of MARPOL which generally prohibits the discharge of all garbage, including all plastics, into the sea.
The CAM concluded that Carnival did not launch a full investigation into this discharge. After the auditor reported the illegal discharge, Carnival claimed that it implemented “corrective actions” and re-trained the individuals involved in the discharge incident, and it also allegedly re-trained the employees who are involved in food waste segregation throughout the Carnival fleet.
On February 21-22, 2019, the auditor performed a follow-up visit to the Carnival Elation to check on the “correction actions” and concluded that the Carnival ship “continues to have challenges sorting food and non-food waste.”
The CAM reported that discharging food waste contaminated with plastic and other non-food items may represent a “systemic issue.” In prior audits, the auditor made similar findings regarding food waste mixed with plastic items on other ships:
- Sea Princess (Dec. 19, 2017) – “it was witnessed that the Food Waste Chute had several unauthorized items in the food waste that is going down the chute and overboard, items such as plastic straws, corn on the cob holders, wooden stir sticks, plastic tea bag packages, and plastic knives. The unauthorized waste was not being segregated at the early stage of the collecting the food waste. This was noted during the galley inspection as it was found that there is plastic straws, paper, wood stir sticks and rubber bands in the pulpers.”
- Ruby Princess (Feb. 15, 2018) – “auditor witnessed 55-gallon containers held several unauthorized items destined to go down the waste chute and overboard. These items were plastic straws, plastic corn on the cob holders, wooden stir sticks, toothpicks, wooden steak identifiers, paper, paper clips and aluminum foil wrappers. The unauthorized waste was not being segregated at the early stage of segregating the food waste.”
- Carnival Dream (Aug. 24, 2018) – “in the marshalling area of the garbage handling space, it was found that disposal of food waste [sic] were several unauthorized items mixed in waste containers that were ready to be discharged down the chute and then overboard while at sea. These items are but not limited to: aluminum bottle caps, broken plastic cups, cotton swabs (Q‐tips), emery cloth, plastic straws, napkins, paper and umbrellas for drinks.”
“Non-Compliance By Carnival Corp.’s Highest Level of Management”
Putting the discharge of plastics from Carnival-owned ships aside for a moment, the CAM found even more serious violations of probation by Carnival’s upper management. The CAM concluded that:
“. . . the largest compliance challenge facing the Company comes not from the compliance issues on the ships, but from the actions, and failures to act, at the Company’s highest levels of management—the most obvious manifestation of which is the now years-long failure to comply with the condition of probation requiring the Company to provide the CCM (Corporate Compliance Manager) with actual authority over environmental compliance.”
I’ll discuss the evidence where the CAM implicates Carnival Corp.’s upper management tomorrow.
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Top photos: Court Appointed Monitor April 2, 2019 Report.
Bottom photo credit: Food waste chute, with clumps of food mixed with plastic, silverware and bottle caps, on a Carnival Cruise Line ship – anonymous Carnival crew member. The photo shows how food, plastic items and non-food waste are routinely mixed together and then thrown into the chute to be dumped into the water.