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

The $40,000,000 fine levied against Princess Cruises last week raises the issue of what cruise executives knew about the illegal dumping of oil-contaminated waste from the Caribbean Princess cruise ship and the other illegal practices which took place on the Star Princess, Grand Princess, Coral Princess and Golden Princess.

As the Department of Justice (DOJ) points out, this is not an isolated case involving a rogue ship employee. The criminal misconduct  took place for eight years from 2005 to 2013 (involving the Caribbean Princess) and involved several other cruise ships as well. According to the DOJ, the illegal conduct included not only the "magic pipe" to circumvent the oily water separator on the Caribbean Princess but involved other other illegal practices on the Caribbean Princess as well the Star Princess,Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess Grand Princess, Coral Princess and Golden Princess.

The DOJ suggested that the pollution crimes committed by Princess were motivated by avoiding the costs associated with properly offloading the oily waste in port. The DOJ says that subordinate engineers on the Caribbean Princess nicknamed the chief engineer (responsible for using the "magic pipe" to discharge oily waste in August of 2013) “braccino corto” (a person with short arms), which the DOJ explained is "an Italian expression for a cheap person whose arms are too short to reach his wallet."

According to the DOJ, some Princess engineers expressed the same opinion of the Princess shore-side superintendent.

Princess Cruises’ reaction to the DOJ charges seems designed to isolate its shore-side managers and executives from direct responsibility. Although it admitted that its ship employees’ conduct was "inexcusable," and that its oversight was "inadequate," it denied that its management in its headquarters knew anything illegal was occurring before August 2013.

Gauging from comments on social media, the public seems skeptical.  

Consider some of the comments to the Miami Herald article Carnival-Owned Ship Caught in Pollution Scheme. Now They’re Paying $40 Million for It:

"Of course management knew. Why would a lowly worker come up with this idea? He could care less because he gets paid the same whether or not they follow regulations. Corporate wanted to save time and money . . . "

"Typical cutting corners to increase profits while exploiting foreign workers who work for paupers wages."

Similar comments were posted by readers of USA TODAY’s article Princess Cruises to Plead Guilty to Polluting Ocean:

"Something this significant, all top executives had to have known. It takes money and time to dispose of waste. Were there no questions when time was dramatically saved and cost of waste management decreased drastically? Come on…."

A reader of our Facebook page commented:

"Financial penalties like this are a drop in the ocean for a company the size of Carnival; but does anyone up the chain get jail time? I work in the cruise industry, and I (we) don’t need arrogant (executives) who are looking for their next bonus for "cost savings" thinking that international waters are their big dumping ground."

The purpose of an illegal "magic pipe" is to save costs.  Pursuant to international requirements, oily bilge water from a cruise ship must be treated to the point that the oil content is below 15 parts per million before it is can be discharged into the ocean. The oil-water separators (OWS) are expensive to maintain and operate. The oil that is separated from the bilge water must be stored and then offloaded from the ship onto barges or pumped ashore to be incinerated at licensed facilities. But the "magical pipe" avoids the costs associated with maintaining the OWS and removing and disposing of the waste products.  

Like other cruise lines, Carnival Corporation places considerable pressure on all its brands to reduce costs. The costs associated with the operation of a ship are carefully scrutinized and analyzed from ship to ship. A significant variation in costs between a ship offloading and disposing oil compared to a ship dumping oil at sea via a "magic pipe" should be readily observed by any corporation. It is doubtful that the low waste disposal costs of the Caribbean Princess, compared to a ship with a functioning oil water separator (OWS), didn’t come to the attention of the shore-side managers as well as those in the company and parent corporation who audit the costs of operating the cruise line’s fleet of cruise ships. My opinion is that someone on the corporate side probably knew what was really happening on one of the company’s $500 million ships, or perhaps they turned a blind eye toward the monkey business. 

The closest that the DOJ will come to holding the cruise executives responsible is saying that the illegal discharge "was the result of more than just bad actors on one ship. It reflects very poorly on Princess’s culture and management."

This slap on the wrist ignores the fact that when the Caribbean Princess started its eight years of discharging oily wastes into the oceans, Carnival was still on probation following a fine of $18,000,000. In 2002, as part of its felony plea agreement, Carnival and its "subsidiaries and operating companies" were required to undertake a five year court-supervised environmental program involving every "cruise ship and shoreline facility in the U.S. and abroad." Carnival was required to " . . . hire new personnel and managers, whose sole responsibilities . . . [were] to ensure compliance with local, state, federal and international environmental requirements . . . (and) subject their operation to an independent auditor, approved by the government." 

Princess Cruises was not yet owned by Carnival in 2002 but Carnival took ownership and control of Princess Cruises the following year. It is less than clear whether Carnival took steps to ensure that Carnival-owned ships operated by its subsidiary Princess Cruises complied with the 2002 consent agreement with the DOJ after Princess Cruises came under Carnival’s control in 2003 when Carnival was beginning the DOJ probation period. Regardless, shortly after it started service, the Caribbean Princess began a course of criminal conduct until 2013 which would make the ship’s engineers the poster-children of maritime environmental criminals.   

Is the public really expected to believe that the executives at Carnival or Princess didn’t know anything about the cost-saving criminal conduct over the course of nearly a decade?

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Some people people have suggested that president Jan Swartz should resign but she was not the executive at the helm of Princess during the 2005 – 2013 time period. She worked for Princess as a vice president in sales, marketing, business development and customer service for some of the years in question before leaving the cruise line. She returned to Princess as the top CEO in December 2013, replacing President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Alan Buckelew who had been the Chief Executive Officer of Princess Cruises from June 2007 to November 2013 and its President from February 2004 to November 2013, as well as the Chief Operating Officer of Carnival since December 1, 2013.  Perhaps Swartz’s return to the cruise line was part of the reshuffling that took place after the illegal "magic pipe" was reported to the U.K. Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) a few month earlier?  

Photo Credit: Caribbean Princess in the Caribbean heading for Miami – Cruiser1210 – CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

You can read our first article about the DOJ fines here: Deliberate Dumping, Cover-Up and Lies: DOJ Fines Princess Cruises $40,000,000.

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The Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente E Dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources) (IBAMA) levied a fine of R$ 2.505 million against MSC Cruises.

Based on today’s exchange rate, the fine is approximately $635,545 in U.S. dollars.

IBAMA said that MSC Cruises released garbage into the sea during a cruise between Madeira Island and MSC Garbage Dumpingthe Port of Recife.

The complaint of the environmental crime was made by one of the ship’s passengers who was on board the MSC ship during a cruise between November 26 to December 10, 2013.

I previously wrote about the crime in an article dated December 2013 titled Video: MSC Cruise Ship Dumps Garbage Bags Off Coast of Brazil.

I later posted an article and showed videos of the illegal dumping from the Magnifica sent to me by a crew member on the MSC cruise ship.

It appears that the fine was issued in 2014 after IBAMA viewed video and photographs and listened to testimony, but the fine was not immediately disclosed to the public.

You can see photographs of the dumping here

MSC later touted itself an a steward of the seas.

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The Friends of the Earth (FOE) non-profit organization just released its "Cruise Ship Report Card" for 2014. In a press release, the FOE states that "cruise ships dumped more than a billion gallons of sewage in the ocean this year, much of it raw or poorly treated . . " 

The amount of raw sewage discharged from cruise ships is truly staggering. Cruise ships are permitted to dump untreated raw fecal matter directly into the ocean, just three miles or more from shore.

For anyone who knows the cruise industry’s dismal environmental record, the fact that cruise ships dump raw sewage from the bowels of its ships is hardly new. But what’s remarkable this year is that the entire cruise industry – through its trade organization Cruise Line International Organization (CLIA) – Cruise Ship Pollutionrefused to respond to Friends of the Earth’s requests for information on pollution-reduction technologies. The FOE believes that the cruise industry is trying to stifle scrutiny of dirty cruise ship environmental practices

The Good News

The FOE ranked Disney Cruise Line, a/k/a Magical Cruise Company, as the most environmentally responsible line, earning an "A" for sewage treatment.

The Bad News

The worst offender is Carnival Cruise Line by a long shot. Carnival has the world’s largest fleet of 24 cruise ships but, according to the FOE, only two ships with advanced sewage treatment technology. It earned an "F" for sewage treatment again this year.

According to the FOE, "over 40 percent of the 167 ships in operation still operate using waste treatment technology that’s more than 35 years old."

The Sad News

The FOE also grades cruise ships for air pollution. Unfortunately, most cruise lines burn filthy high-sulfur fuels including nasty bunker fuels. According to the EPA, each day an average cruise ship is at sea it emits more sulfur dioxide than 13 million cars and more soot than 1 million cars.  

You can see a copy of the report here.

Earlier this year, we published videos of MSC crew members dumping bags of plastic and oily discharge into a marine sanctuary from a cruise ship.  Many crew members state that this is common practice at night. The FOE gave MSC an "F."

All cruise lines received an "F" for their lack of transparency.

The headline in the Asbury Park Press stunned me – "Crystal: A luxury cruise line with a conscience."  

Surely this must be a joke I thought, given Crystal’s dreadful environmental record of polluting the oceans and air.

But the article was serious. it talked about Crystal donating used furniture to a "Spanish organization that supports recovering addicts." It mentioned that it turned the guests’ used toiletries into soap for Crystal Symphony Cruise Ship"800 impoverished families" over three years. It "contributed goods to charities in Africa." 

The article also mentioned that Crystal is refurbishing the staterooms aboard the Serenity later this year to install purification equipment, "creating the industry’s first hypoallergenic cabins for passengers with allergies and/or respiratory ills."

But neither the Serenity nor the Symphony have installed advanced sewage treatment systems, resulting in a grade of "F" for the company’s zero percent sewage treatment score. The Crystal cruise ships also burn dirty fuel, including burning cancer-causing sulphur fuel in port because Crystal has not invested in shore-side power hook-ups. Friends of the Earth has consistently awarded Crystal "F’s" in how this cruise line treats the water and air.

In the eyes of environmentalists, Crystal is best known for an incident in 2003 when a Crystal ship dumped around 35,000 gallons of grey water, sewage, and bilge water in a marine sanctuary in Monterey Bay. It had promised earlier not to foul the marine sanctuary’s waters.

According to the L.A. Times, Crystal Cruises said 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 Crystal spokeswoman 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.

When the Friends of the Earth gave Crystal Cruises an "F," Cruise spokesperson Weisband responded by saying that Crystal Cruises "deserved an A … if not an A+."

The elite Conde Nast Traveler cruisers may consistently vote Crystal the "world’s best cruise line," but its the one cruise line that has never exhibited an environmental conscience. 

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia Creative Commons 3.0

Yesterday the Friends of the Earth (FOE) filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington D.C. against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in an effort to force the federal agency to regulate sewage discharges from cruise ships and other vessels in U.S. waters.

As the Palm Beach Post points out, cruise ships alone dumped more than one billion gallons of sewage in the ocean last year. And much of what cruise ships discharge is poorly treated.

The FOE stated: "Cruise ships with populations the size of small towns ply the waters off our coasts and massive cargo ships carrying goods to our ports produce and then dump large amounts of partially Cruise Pollution treated sewage and other wastes into our oceans. 

“The EPA is required under the Clean Water Act to protect people who swim, boat, and fish in waters affected by ship sewage discharges. Modern sewage treatment options are available for relatively low cost, but EPA hasn’t updated it regulations to reflect those advances since 1976. As a result, ships can dump bacteria-laden wastewater in some of our most valuable waters."

You can read the lawsuit here.

As we have mentioned in the past, the FOE "grades" the cruise lines for their treatment of the environment. Last year, the FOE report card contained F’s for Costa, Crystal, MSC and P&O. Royal Caribbean received a C and Carnival received a C-.  Disney received an A.

Here’s how the cruise lines have treated the planet over the last few years:

Enemies of the Environment? Costa, Crystal & P&O Cruises Flunk Cruise Ship Environmental Report Card, While Carnival & Royal Caribbean Receive "D+" (2012)

Cruise Ships Turn British Columbia Waters into "Toilet Bowel of Raw Sewage" (2010)

New Report Details Cruise Industry’s Record of Pollution (2009)

The cruise industry claims that it is the "guardian of the seas." But this year we posted videos of MSC Cruises dumping garbage bags and plastic materials into the waters of Brazil.

 

Image credit: Cruise Ship Cartoon Shields via earthisland.org and Campaign to Safeguard America’s Waterways 

Today, a newspaper in Switzerland joined in the coverage of the story regarding the alleged dumping of garbage bags from the MSC Cruises Magnifica cruise ship.

Le Matin, the largest French-speaking newspaper in Switzerland, published the headline:

Des ordures jetées à la mer! — Vidéo à l’appui, un avocat affirme que la compagnie italo-suisse MSC Croisières jette des poubelles dans l’océan.   

MSC Cruises Garbage DumpingYou can read the article here.

Here are some of the comments to the article:

And one company in my black boycott list . . 

Hello in the late 80’s I worked as a Chef on the Apollo Cruise Company based in Miami several times late at night I saw my eyes pour entire containers full Gulf of Mexico and offshore Brazil .. unfortunately .. I’m not surprised that 35 years later this terrible way "to do" is still in force .. Greenpeace .. Help!

Having traveled with MSC, and having followed the recommendations for "environmental protection" (reuse towels, etc..), When I see these images it disgusts me!

You can read the comments here.

So far, the story has received substantial international news coverage: New Times (U.S.A.), Cruise Hive (U.S.A.), Huffington Post (U.S.A.), Daily Mail (U.K.), AOL Travel  (U.K.), Cruising the Molly Way (U.K.), e Global Travel Media (Australia & New Zealand) and Le Matin (Switzerland).

The travel industry publication (Travel Weekly, Travel Pulse), and the cruise bloggers (Cruise Critic, Cruise Currents, Cruise Fever, Cruise Mates, Cruise Addicts, Captain Greybeard) have all stuck their heads in the sand. None of these types want to rock the boat and become blacklisted from the cruise lines’ parties and free cruises. 

The cruise industry just finished their self-laudatory Cruise Shipping Miami trade show.  The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) and the CLIA CEO, Ms. Duffy, have not said a peep about the environmental abuse. The "One Industry, One Voice" cruise industry and its loyal-to-a-fault travel agent base are going to stay quiet and let this stinky story fade away.  

Photo Credit: Daily Mail

 

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Two weeks ago we posted videos and photos of garbage and debris and crew members aboard MSC cruise ships apparently throwing the refuse into the ocean.  We first asked MSC Cruises for an explanation but were ignored. You can see the videos here and here and the photos here.

This weekend the story went viral.

First the Huffington Post posted an article Cruise Ship Workers Appear To Throw Bags Of Garbage Right Into The Ocean (VIDEO).

Then the U.K.’s Daily Mail posted an article Caught on Camera: The Moment Cruise Ship Crew Member Hurled Garbage Bags Straight into the Ocean Off Brazilian Coast in Violation of International MSC Cruises Cruise bags of GarbageLaw.  The Daily Mail has the largest number of internet readers of a newspaper in the world.

Today AOL Travel also covered the story Cruise Ship Worker Filmed ‘Throwing Rubbish Bags Into Ocean’ (Video).

The articles are being widely shared on Facebook and re-tweeted on Twitter.

MSC has continued to ignore us for the past two weeks, but tells the Huffington Post that the videos show nothing more than a single dumping video taken by a passenger last December. MSC says there is only one alleged incident.

I say rubbish to that. Former crew members we have spoken with tell us of systematic illegal dumping of prohibited items in prohibited area on numerous occasions. You can read our thoughts here.

As the dumping videos go viral, all of the usually talkative cruise and travel agents, writers, and bloggers promoting the cruise industry remain silent. 

Today the Huffington Post covered the story we posted 10 days ago about MSC Cruises crew members throwing black bags overboard from the MSC Magnifica cruise ship into the water. 

MSC says there is nothing new shown in the photos and three videos we posted because they are just a different angle of an incident reported by a passenger last December.

I say hogwash to that.  The video taken by the passenger seems to show garbage bags thrown from the port side of the cruise ship; whereas, the videos taken by the crew member shows the garbage MSC Cruises Magnifica Cruise Ship Dumpingbags thrown from the stern.

Also, if you look at all three articles we posted, you will note that the piles of debris which the former crew members say were pitched overboard involved at least two different incidents from different MSC cruise ships at different times into different waters. 

The large pile of broken down pallets from the MSC Magnifica were reported thrown into Brazilian waters in November / December 2013. The pile of pallets from the MSC Poesia were reportedly thrown into the waters between Florida and Mexico in January 2013.  The crew members we spoke to said that this type of debris was systematically dumped overboard at least once a week while the ships were underway at night.

The former crew members also told us that the dumping of garbage bags were far from a single event from one single cruise ship. They have sent us many photographs of this practice, including incidents where bales of cardboard, plastic and debris wrapped in clear plastics were stacked from floor to ceiling and and then thrown into the sea (see photo above right).

It is not surprising to us that MSC Cruises has never responded to our requests for information. The cruise line refuses to inform us of the identity of the Brazilian authorities who are investigating these incidents. MSC may be trying to  keep the former crew members, who know that the practice is more widespread than MSC will admit, from talking to the authorities.

MSC Poesia Cruise ShipThis week we published videos and photographs from a former MSC Cruises employee which show garbage being thrown by men wearing MSC blue jumpsuits out a large porthole on a mooring deck. The former crew member identified the cruise ship as the MSC Magnifica.

You can see some of the videos here and here. You can see some of the photos here.

In response to these articles, we have been contacted by other former MSC employees who have sent us additional information and photos which they contend show garbage and other items being dumped from other MSC cruise ships.

One set of photos which struck me showed a pile of disassembled wooden pallets which had been stacked in the middle of the mooring area aboard a cruise ship. The former employee indicated that this occurred aboard the MSC Poesia. The photo is very similar to other photos we published of pieces of wooden pallets stacked in the mooring deck of the MSC Magnifica.

No garbage or debris should be stored or stacked in this area of the ship because it is a work place where the mooring lines are operated when the ships reach port.

The former employee explained that the pieces of wood from pallets or crates would be stacked here after the pallets / crates would be broken down to be discarded. The top photo, he explained, was taken at 11:00 PM and shows the pieces of wood ready to be discarded.  He further explained that at night, the crew members would open the grates and thrown the wood through the large portholes into the water. The bottom photo, he says, shows the same area at 7:00 AM the next morning with the wood removed before the ship reached port.

The question arises how often does this type of alleged dumping take place? Are we to believe that the environmental and safety officers and staff captain did not know that wood was being stacked like this in the mooring area in the evening and would disappear by the next morning? Mooring decks are usually secured with access permitted only for deck, engine or security personnel.

Stacking wood like this is also a fire hazard.

If you were a crew member aboard a MSC cruise ship and know of the method how the cruise line discards garbage and refuse, please contact me at jim@cruiselaw.com

Stay tuned for other similar articles.

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MSC Poesia Garbage Dumping

MSC Poesia Garbage Dumping