Princess Cruises’ Star Princess cruise ship recently discharged sludge from its exhaust system scrubbers in the port of Ketchikan, according to the city of Ketchikan, as originally reported by  KRBD Community Radio. KRBD also reports that the city received complaints by the public of an earlier similar discharge from the Golden Princess while in Ketchikan.

As shown by photographs (above and on our Facebook page, courtesy of the city of Ketchikan), the sludge polluted the waters of Ketchikan and fouled the port facilities where the Princess cruise ship were berthed.  According to communications between administrators in the city of Ketchikan, a local Alaskan resident reportedly voiced her serious concerns over cruise ship discharges in port were in port and the resulting fouling of beaches.

The city of Ketchikan concluded that the recent incidents of discharges appeared to be from cruise ship exhaust gas scrubbers and not from wastewater. The city identified several photographs of discharges observed by local port personnel coming from the Star Princess on July 23, 2018 while the cruise ship was at berth no. 4 in Ketchikan.  The city notified the ship which turned off its exhaust gas scrubber system.

The city of Ketchikan notified the U.S. Coast Guard and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) which reportedly are both investigating the incidents.

Scrubber systems are increasingly being used on cruise ships in order to reduce sulfur particles and engine exhaust particulates.  Petroleum-based. non-combustible particulate matter accumulates as sludge, during the water-scrubbing process, and must eventually be removed from the ships. Many cruise ships simply discharge the sludge into the water, while they are underway or even at port, rather than properly disposing the sludge in facilities ashore.

According to the Ports and Harbors personnel in Ketchikan and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC), such untreated discharges are not permitted by state water quality standards within Alaska’s local waters, although they apparently are permitted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Cruise lines claim that they exceed all applicable local, state, national and international environmental regulations. But this does not appear to be true. A representative of the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) recently argued that the cruise industry would never dump the sludge overboard, irrespective of  whether regulations permit such discharges, where the particulate matter and sulfur sludge obviously would pollute the water and foul the local beaches.

According to data prepared by the ADEC, as many as 23 large cruise ships (with anywhere from one to four scrubbers systems each) are calling on ports in Alaska in 2018. There is concern of widespread discharges of sludge into the Alaskan ports. Other ports in locations outside of Alaska, where low-sulfur fuel is required, will also likely see cruise ships discharging scrubber sludge at sea and in local waters.

The Star Princess and Caribbean Princess were two of several Princess cruise ships implicated in Princess’ widespread and long term discharge of oily substances over a period of nearly a decade. The Caribbean Princess secretly used an illegal “magic pipe” to bypass pollution control devices and discharge oily substances directly into the water, rather than properly offload the waste in port.

The Star Princess used illegal practices such as opening a salt water valve when bilge waste was being processed by the oily water separator and oil content monitor. The purpose was to prevent the oil content monitor from otherwise alarming and stopping the overboard discharge.  The second practice involved discharges of oily bilge water originating from the overflow of graywater tanks into the machinery space bilges. This waste was pumped back into the graywater system rather than being processed as oily bilge waste. Neither of these practices were truthfully recorded in the ship’s oil record book as required by law. All of this was designed to save the cruise line money.

As we explained in our article at the time titled Deliberate Dumping, Cover-Up and Lies: DOJ Fines Princess Cruises $40,000,000  the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) levied the largest fine in cruise line history against Princess and its parent company, Carnival Corporation, for polluting and lying about it to the Coast Guard. The DOJ indicated that a perceived motive for the environmental crimes was financial – “the chief engineer that ordered the dumping off the coast of England told subordinate engineers that it cost too much to properly offload the waste in port and that the shore-side superintendent who he reported to would not want to pay the expense.”

The DOJ stated that “Princess engineers on the Caribbean Princess indicated that the chief engineer responsible for the discharge on August 26, 2013, was known as “braccino corto” (a person with short arms), an Italian expression for a cheap person whose arms are too short to reach his wallet. Some expressed the same opinion of the shore-side superintendent.”

As part of guilty plea agreement, Princess and Carnival promised not to commit further violation of either the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) or any state or local environmental laws. They further promised to comply with a Court approved Environmental Compliance Plan which required these cruise lines to strictly comply with all international, state and local environmental laws and regulations regarding water pollution.

Princess Cruises’ discharge of the toxic sludge of scrubber operations into the waters of Alaska seems to violate existing Alaskan water  regulations, according to the City of Ketchikan. In my opinion, Princess violated the terms and the spirit of the 2016 pollution plea agreement in the process. Princess will continue to violate the agreement and the compliance plan every time it discharges the sludge at sea or in port.

Photographs of the nasty sludge dumped at the port while the Star Princess was at berth in Ketchikan makes a mockery of Princess’ promise to be a good steward of the marine environment.

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Photo credit: Scrubber sludge – Star Princess – City of Ketchikan.

Last week, a senior vice president of the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) spoke to the residents of Rockland, Maine, in an effort to try and convince them that cruise lines will be respectful of Rockland’s environment.

We wrote about the meeting in our article titled CLIA visits Rockland.

Several residents brought to my attention a claim made by Brian Salerno, CLIA’s Senior Vice President of Maritime Affairs, that the sludge from cruise ship smokestack scrubbers (designed to reduce emissions, primarily sulfur),  is stored onboard and offloaded, allegedly, only at facilitates ashore. He promised that the cruise industry would not dump the sludge overboard,  where the particulate matter and sulfur sludge obviously would pollute the water and foul the local beaches and port facilities.

The CLIA representative said that the cruise ship scrubber processing equipment “ultimately collects sludge” which “has to be disposed of properly ashore.”

You can hear Mr. Salermo make these precise statements to the Rockland residents here.

As I suspected, the CLIA representative’s comments appear to be patently false.

As cruise expert Professor Ross Klein points out on his CruiseJunkie site, a cruise ship recently (just last week) discharged scrubber sludge into the state waters of Alaska.  Professor Klein cites the recent article by KRBD Community Radio in Ketchikan, Alaska which reported that on July 23rd, port personnel from the City of Ketchikan observed discharge coming from the exhaust system scrubbers on the Star Princess cruise ship when it was at a berth in the port in Ketchikan.  This sludge discharge followed complaints by the public of an earlier discharge from the Golden Princess cruise ship. The city directed the ships to cease discharging scrubber processing waste while in port.

You can see a photograph of the sludge discharged in port here.

These actions directly contradict the statements by CLIA that it never discharges sludge from smokestack scrubbers into the water and, further, that CLIA cruise ships discharge nothing while a ship is in or near port.  Mr. Salerno made a point of claiming that cruise lines promise not only to comply with federal and international pollution regulations but they claim to always exceed these standards. He claimed that this is a mandatory CLIA requirement and a condition of membership in the cruise trade organization.

It should be noted that not only did cruise ships recently discharge scrubber sludge in the local waters of Alaskaa but the discharge occurred from cruise ships operated by Princess Cruises which was involved in prior incidents of widespread illegal discharges.  Princess of course, is the cruise line which illegally discharged oily waste from its fleet of cruise ships for nearly a decade and was fined $40,000,000 by the DOJ. (Princess Cruises, owned by parent company Carnival Corporation, of course, remains a member of CLIA).  The Star Princess and the Golden Princess (among other cruise ships operated by Princess) were both implicated in Princess’ notorious use of “magic pipes” to circumvent the oily water separator and oil content monitors in the required pollution prevention equipment.

The Port and Harbors director in Ketchikan informed KRBD that the discharge from scrubbers may technically be permitted by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, although the discharge may have violated the state water quality regulations of Alaska.

CLIA made a big deal during its meeting with the residents of Rockland of stating that CLIA promised not only to comply with U.S. and international pollution standards but to never discharge anything within the state territorial waters where it sails its cruise ships.

This is reminiscent of an incident in 2003 when a cruise ship operated by Crystal Cruises dumped around 35,000 gallons of grey water, sewage, and bilge water in a marine sanctuary in Monterey Bay. Crystal had promised earlier not to foul the marine sanctuary’s waters.

According to the L.A. Times, Crystal said that it didn’t have to report the incident to authorities because it broke no laws. It is “perfectly legal” under maritime laws to discharge even untreated wastewater more than 12 miles offshore, and the ship was 14 miles offshore at the time, said a Crystal spokesperson, Mimi Weisband.

“We didn’t break any law,” Weisband said. “We did break a promise.”

The city of Monterey thereafter banned all Crystal cruise ships for life.

The residents of Rockland would be wise to learn a lesson from Monterey 15 years ago and from Ketchikan just last week.

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Photo credit: Crystal Harmony – rpieket – CC BY 2.0, commons / wikimedia.

The Cruise Line Industry Association (CLIA) attended a town hall type of meeting in Rockland, Maine last Friday, July 27th. Brian Salerno, CLIA’s Senior Vice President of Maritime Affairs, was tasked by CLIA to try and convince the local Rockland residents that cruise lines were respectful of Rockland’s environment.

I was not at the meeting but several people who were present at the City Hall Chambers asked me what I think about CLIA’s claim that it is committed to protecting the air and water in the locations where its member cruise ships sail and unload thousands of their guests.

My response is that cruise lines, the likes of Carnival, NCL or Royal Caribbean, can’t be trusted. After all, they are all, literally, corporate felons with histories of lying about environmental pollution to the Coast Guard and the ports where they do business.

History Has a Tendency to Repeat Itself

In 2002, Carnival pled guilty to numerous felonies for discharging oily waste into the sea. Carnival reportedly routinely falsified its oil record books in order to conceal its illegal practices. The U.S. Government leveled a $18,000,000 fine and placed Carnival on probation.

In 2002, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) also pled guilty to the felony of routinely circumventing its oily water separator, dumping oily bilge directly into the ocean on a regular basis, and falsifying its record keeping. NCL admitted that it engaged in a practice of “systematically lying to the United States Coast Guard over a period of years.” The DOJ issued a fine of only $1,500,000, primarily because NCL admitted its wrongdoing, rather than continuing to lie and scheme like Carnival.

Starting in the late 1990’s, the U.S. Coast Guard caught Royal Caribbean engaged in widespread dumping of oil and chemicals. The DOJ fined the cruise line $1,000,000. After Royal Caribbean was caught repeatedly illegally dumping oily discharges and chemicals and lying about it, the DOJ fined it $8,000,000 and then fined it an additional $18,000,000 for a total of $27,000,000.

Carnival’s subsidiary brands have not fared any better than the parent company. In 1998, Holland America Line was fined $2,000,000 after it was caught discharging oily water without the use of an oil-water separator. And of course more recently (in December of 2016), the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) fined Carnival subsidiary Princess Cruises a record $40,000,000 for pollution and trying to cover it up.

You can also consider trusting an industry where cruise ships often use the oceans as a place to discard plastic rubbish bags, as shown in this video a concerned crew member sent me from a MSC cruise ship.

You Can’t Get Kicked Out of this Club

It is with this background, I am responding to  several residents who asked me about Mr. Salerno’s claim, reported in the Penoscob Bay Pilot, that CLIA has the authority to expel members from the organization who do not abide by relevant environmental regulations.

But that’s hardly true. Consider the recent wide-spread pollution where Princess plead guilty to multiple felony charges of illegally dumping oil-contaminated waste from the Caribbean Princess, Star Princess, Grand Princess, Coral Princess and Golden Princess cruise ships which sailed to numerous U.S. states (Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia) and two territories (U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico). According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the Caribbean Princess had been illegally discharging oil since 2005 using bypass equipment, sometimes called a “magic pipe,” to circumvent pollution-prevention equipment that separates oil and monitors oil levels in the ship’s water.

You can read the disturbing facts and the cruise line’s decade-long deception in the article titles Deliberate Dumping, Cover-Up and Lies: DOJ Fines Princess Cruises $40,000,000.

If there ever were a compelling reason to oust a cruise line from CLIA, it was Princess’ outlandish pollution and even more outrageous lies and cover up. CLIA chose to do nothing.

How Do Cruise Lines Handle Sludge?

Mr. Salerno also claimed at the meeting in Rockland that all sludge from cruise ship smokestack scrubbers (designed to reduce emissions, primarily sulfur) is held onboard and offloaded ashore only at designated facilitates ashore.  I know that the cruise industry previously discharged the sludge at sea, a nasty practice which substantially increases the presence of carbon dioxide.  And I have a hard time believing that the cruise lines would have changed their practice without there being a law requiring it.

I would like to hear from crew members with knowledge regarding this issue. Perhaps an environmental officer can communicate with me. We promise to keep all such communications with concerned employees confidential.

How do the cruise ships really handle sludge?

It seems that the good people of Rockland deserve a straight-forward response.

Interested in this issue? We suggest reading: Royal Caribbean Treats Rockland Like a $1 Store.

Listen to an audio of the meeting here.

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Photo credit: Reproduced from an original postcard published by the Hugh C. Leighton Company, Portland, Maine, Public Domain, commons / wikimedia.

 

 

The delivery of Carnival’s newest cruise ship, the Carnival Horizon, which is currently in dry dock in Italy, is at risk of being delayed due to concerns that the water in the surrounding basin has been polluted during the painting of the ship’s hull.

The Carnival cruise ship is currently in dry dock in the Italian port of Monfalcone for the third time because of a problem with the application with the paint on the ship’s hull.

Carnival Horizon Monfalcone ItalyCarnival and the ship builder do not want this information leaked to the international press.

The Carnival Horizon just arrived in Monfalcone from the ship builder Fincantieri’s shipyard in Marghera on March 14th for its hull to be prepared for painting. An article in the Italian newspaper Il Piccolo reports that paint fragments from the Carnival Horizon ended up in the basin surrounding the dry-docked Carnival ship.

The Il Piccolo article mentions the concerns of a “polluting event at sea.” Painting operations have been suspended as of the date of the article.  The Harbor Master ‘s Office and the Public Prosecutor ‘s Office have obtained samplings of the contaminated waters. The Harbor Office also reportedly arranged for the positioning of absorbing panels to prevent further water pollution.

The Horizon was originally scheduled to go to a dry dock in Cadiz, Spain in preparation for its inaugural cruise from Barcelona on April 2, 2018; however, Carnival elected not to accept the responsibility and liability by accepting the cruise ship which was leaching paint particles.

The ship builder, Fincantieri, previously moved a ship in construction out of its dry dock to make space for the Horizon and therefore ended up polluting it’s own waters.

The shipyard touts that the silicone painting coating is a “more environmentally friendly process,” which seems belied by the news from Italy.

In the last year, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has been requested to investigate the use of certain silicone-based foul release systems and other hull coatings.

The Carnival Horizon is a sister ship to the Carnival Vista and is the largest ship which Fincantieri has ever built for the Carnival Cruise Line’s fleet. It has a gross tonnage of 133,500 tons and is 323 meters long.

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March 19, 2018 Update: Master mariner, Andrea Romanin, tweets the following today: Carnival Horizon is under repainting in Monfalcone’s shipyard because the full coating of the hull and final touches up carried out in Palermo were a total failure (all peeling….🙈). Amazing….What about paint surveyors? ☹️

Photo credit: Katia Bonaventura via Il Piccolo.

Venice and Cruise ShipsItalian Transport Minister Graziano Delrio announced that cruise ships of certain tonnage will be stopped from cruising through the city’s Giudecca Canal around the historic St Mark’s Square. In "three or four years," large cruise ships of certain displacement will have to go to the north to the industrial port city of Marghera. Some newspapers report that the restriction will apply to ships of over 55,000 tons  whereas other newspapers state that the limitation will apply to ships over 100,000 tons

This comes after complaints from environmental groups, protests from local residents, and warnings from UNESCO which has labeled the fragile city of Venice as at risk from deterioration by large ships as well as the millions of tourists which swarm into the popular city. 

My family visited Venice during a trip to Italy last year (photo below).  I was last in Venice in the summer of 1978 (photo above left) when I was a college student. (Read my thoughts in Are Cruise Ships Ruining Venice Or Just Memories From My Youth?)  As our family watched tour groups of 20-30 cruise passengers pour through the tight street and congregate in the plazas, my oldest son commented that he thought the city seemed "infested with tourists."

Venice has banned monster cruise ships in the past (over 96,000 tons) only to see the industry cruise around the restrictions. 

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

November 10, 2017 Update:  It seems that the issue is more complicated than it appears. : What is Happening to Venice?  Venice’s cruise ship ban is hiding its tourism problem, not fixing it.

Photo credits: Jim Walker

Venice Cruise Ship

 

The cruise industry is touting a report titled Evaluation of Cruise Industry, Global Environmental Practices and Performance.

It’s a non-critical summary paid for by the industry’s trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"). The report is largely a PR stunt which omits the relevant, recent history of the practice committed over the course of at least a decade of routinely dumping oil from cruise ships owned by the largest cruise line in the world.

It has been less than four months since the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) fined Princess Cruises and its parent company, Carnival Corporation, $40,000,000 for polluting the seas and trying to cover it Cruise Pollutionup. Carnival and Princess pleaded guilty to seven felony charges of illegally dumping oil-contaminated waste from the Caribbean Princess cruise ship which sailed to numerous U.S. states (Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia) and two territories (U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico).

The DOJ says that "in addition to the use of a magic pipe to circumvent the oily water separator and oil content monitor required pollution prevention equipment, the U.S. investigation uncovered two other illegal practices which were found to have taken place on the Caribbean Princess as well as four other Princess ships – Star Princess, Grand Princess, Coral Princess and Golden Princess. One practice was to open a salt water valve when bilge waste was being processed by the oily water separator and oil content monitor. The purpose was to prevent the oil content monitor from otherwise alarming and stopping the overboard discharge. The second practice involved discharges of oily bilge water originating from the overflow of graywater tanks into the machinery space bilges. This waste was pumped back into the graywater system rather than being processed as oily bilge waste. Neither of these practices were truthfully recorded in the oil record book as required.

But you won’t read any reference to magic pipes and falsified log books in the PR release by the cruise industry’s trade organization, Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"). 

Cruise line cheerleaders, like Travel Pulse, published over-the-top self-laudatory articles like The Cruise Industry Is Winning at Environmental Performance

Conspicuously absent from CLIA PR efforts is any mention of environmental problems caused by the cruise lines. Consider the following articles within the last year:

The world’s largest cruise ship and its supersized pollution problem (Guardian).

Cruise Industry Gets “F” for Transparency, Cutting Emissions (World Maritime News).

Carnival Corp ship caught in pollution scheme. Now they’re paying $40 million for it (Miami Herald).

Cruise industry ‘failing’ environment and public health, report claims (Telegraph).

Princess Cruises Pollution Cover-Up: Are the Greedy Cruise Executives Untouchable? (Cruise Law News).

This CLIA-paid-for-report is part of the cruise industry’s reputation rehabilitation. Last January, Princess Cruises issued a press statement via PR Newswire that it had been voted the "Best Ocean Cruise Line" in the USA TODAY and 10Best Readers Choice cruise travel awards, despite the DOJ’s record environmental fine just a month earlier. 

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Photo crdit: NABU via Telegraph

Falmouth, Jamaica Dredge and FillYesterday, I attended the annual Seatrade Global conference in Fort Lauderdale. In the morning, the "state of the industry” featured the usual cruise tycoons extolling on the billion dollar cruise industry. Carnival Corporation’s CEO Arnold Donald, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio, MSC Cruises Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago, and Royal Caribbean Cruises CEO Richard Fain all spoke glowingly to an audience of enthusiastic cruise attendees that the cruise lines were enjoying a booming business.

The most talked about statistic was that over 25 million passengers around the world will be welcomed on board cruise ships this year.

But there was a troubling undercurrent at the convention. 

“NCL’s cruise executive, Frank Del Rio, who received nearly $32 million in compensation in 2015, said that the industry was benefiting because of what he called the "Trump Effect." 

CNBC reporter and moderator, Susan Li, encouraged Del Rio to explain the "Trump Effect" to the attentive audience.  

Del Rio said that because of President Trump, the stock market was at all time high and fewer regulations and pro-business tax cuts were good for his business.

Del Rio also said that he "loved" the NCL cruise destinations, including cruises to his native Cuba, "because they make us money."   

Del Rio’s comments about the "love" of more money and "fewer regulations" seem to be the essence of the "Trump Effect." President Trump is aggressively taking steps to gut the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as evidenced by his appointment of Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt to head that federal agency. Pruitt has a record of trying to destroy the environmental protections that the EPA is responsible for enforcing. He has built his political career by trying to undermine the EPA’s environmental protections and has even disputed the effects of climate change. 

Cruise Ship Smashes Reef in Raja Ampat, IndonesiaThe cruise industry has always struggled with its environmental image.

Just two days ago, a British cruise ship smashed into a pristine and beautiful reef on Raja Ampat in Indonesia and then caused further damage when the captain insisted that tugs drag the cruise ship off the ancient reef.

There are few travel industries which can wreak havoc on rare, biodiverse marine habitats as effectively as the cruise lines. 

Damaging reefs is not an usual event in the world of cruising, as the cruise lines have recently demonstrated time after time. But the damage is not just due to the reckless operation of cruise ships but is often the intentional acts of dredging old reefs and filling native mangroves with the pulverized coral to make way for deeper ports in the Caribbean to accommodate the larger and large cruise ships which are dominating the cruise industry today.

Of course, the cruise industry just witnessed the spectacle of the Department of Justice fining Princess Cruises a record $40,000,000 fine after its investigation uncovered wide-spread illegal practices involving dumping oil at sea around the world by the Caribbean Princess, Star Princess, Grand Princess, Coral Princess and Golden Princess over the course of nearly a decade. Meanwhile, the cruise executives at the helm of the Princess organization at the time of the dumping have continued to be promoted to lucrative positions in the Carnival corporation

"Magic pipes" and shady environmental shipboard practices have long been part of the history of the cruise industry.

The fine seemed to be déjà vu of the early 2000’s when the major Miami-based cruise lines, NCL, Carnival and Royal Caribbean, paid tens of millions of dollars in fines and pled guilty to multiple felonies for dumping oil into the oceans, falsifying ship logs and lying to the U.S. Coast Guard about the environmental crimes.

Reef Damage in Cayman IslandsSo, in an industry with a history like this, it’s troubling to see a CEO of a major cruise line excited about the benefits of fewer environmental regulations under the Trump presidency. Yes, the cruise executives will earn lots of more millions of dollars, but the reefs and waters around the world will pay a heavy price for such short-sightedness.

Interested in more articles about the "Trump Effect?" Read:

Skift (by Hannah Sampson) – Cruise Executives at Odds Over the Trump Effect.

Seattade (by Anne Kalosh) –  Strong demand, record orderbook, China, ‘Trump effect’ boost cruising, top leaders say.

Miami Herald (by Chabeli Herrera) – Cruising is booming, thanks in part to the ‘Trump Effect,’ but there’s a catch.

Take a moment and read: Donald Trump is preparing to make massive policy changes at the EPA and Trump to environment: This is war.

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

Photo credits:

Top – Dredge and fill in Falmouth – Jamaca Gleaner

Middle – Reef in Raja Ampat, Indoneasia – AFP via the newspaper

Bottom – Anchor damage in Cayman Islands – Don Foster’s Dive Cayman via Cayman Compass

Royal Caribbean Alaska Air Pollution Violations Seatrade Cruise News reports that Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises recently settled all claims related to alleged violations of the Alaska Marine Visible Emissions Standards that occurred over an earlier five-year period on certain ships.

Last year, we reported that the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation issued notices of violation to a number of cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean and Celebrity, for a pollution violations over the past five years. In addition to Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises, NCL, Carnival, Holland America, Princess, and Silversea violated the Alaskan emission standards.

In its most recent annual report, Royal Caribbean stated that the cruise line had settled the claims pursuant to a compliance order by consent this month for an undisclosed amount. and performing certain remedial actions.

As we mentioned in our article last April, Alaska issued 18 notices of violation involving 48 instances of excessive air emissions against a host of cruise lines since 2010,. Each violation of law carries a fine of approximately $37,500.

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Yesterday, Princess Cruises isued a press statement via PR Newswire that it had been voted the "Best Ocean Cruise Line" in the USA TODAY and 10Best Readers Choice cruise travel awards. 

The press release highlighted comments made by Princess Cruises president, Jan Swartz: "We’re incredibly proud to be named ‘Best Ocean Cruise Line’ by the experts and readers of USA TODAY as it’s our goal to provide our guests memorable and inspiring cruise vacation experiences."

A panel of cruise experts (cruise bloggers, travel agents, & industry friends) picked the initial nominees; the top 10 winners were then determined by popular vote.

The judges who nominated Princess are notable people in the world of cruising (I’m friendly with some of them) who author high quality articles and operate popular sites about the cruise industry: Carrie Finley Princess Cruises Pollution Bajak – Cruise Buzz; Fran Golden – USA TODAY; Sherry Laskin Kennedy – Cruise Maven; Jason Leppert – Popular Cruising; Chris Owen – Chris Cruises; Doug Parker – Cruise Radio; and Aaron Saunders – From The Deck Chair.  But, quite frankly, I am embarrassed for them.

Last month, the Department of Justice leveled a fine of $40,000,000 against Carnival Corporation for Princess Cruises’ deliberate discharge of oil via "magic pipes," alteration of oil logs regarding at least five of its cruise ships, and lying to the Coast Guard over the course of nearly a decade. Ms. Swartz was featured in a video trying her best to appear apologetic as part of Princess’ multi-media response to the revelations.

Its an embarrassing indictment of the cruise industry for a corporate felon to be voted the "best ocean cruise line" after it polluted the oceans and lied about it for so many years.  A better approach would have been for the judges to have disqualified any company which is on probation for environmental crimes or for the cruise executive to have politely declined the award, saying that the cruise line promises to do much better in the future.  

I posted Princess’ patting-itself-on-its-back PR statement on our firm’s Facebook page; we received these comments:

  • Should have been disqualified . . . 
  • Wow, I would have assumed "best ship", included due diligence on (environmental) issues but I guess not?
  • What a crock of s**t!
  • I agree they should be banned from these polls or disqualified.
  • . . . It’s all a farce.

MSC Cruises DUMPINGThe other cruise lines voted in the list of "top 10 ocean cruise lines" have all been fined for polluting the oceans. Carnival was voted no. 3, even though it owns the polluting cruise ships operated by its Princess brand. Even MSC Cruises, which was voted no. 10, has a notorious reputation after a series of videos were released showing MSC crew members throwing garbage bags into a marine sanctuary at night. 

Yes, the award is a farce. The award should be embarrassing to the cruise industry, the cruise line "winner," the judges, and the cruise fans who voted for a corporate felon which intentionally polluted the oceans for years. 

Photo credit: Top – Department of Justice via CURT ANDERSON/AP via US News; bottom – anonymous via Cruise Law News.

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

These illegal practices on the Princess cruise ships took place over a nine 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?

Today, gCaptain reported that "two high-ranking ship engineers were sentenced to prison Thursday 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 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 would have clearly implicated Princess Cruises’ shore-side supervisors. And once its was proven that an audit of the vessel expenses would have revealed that there were no costs for offloading and treating 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 Princess Cruises negotiated a settlement that included only a fine and a probation period, but no jail time for any of its executives or even its senior engineers.

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 lies and cover-up.  

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