By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
IN announcing plans to build a $100-million mega cruise port in Grand Bahama, Carnival Corporation has promised it would not hurt the island’s fragile environment. However, a US federal judge is considering temporarily banning the docking of the cruise company’s ships at US ports as punishment for a possible probation violation, which includes incidents of allegedly illegally dumping oil and plastics in the ocean.
According to reports in Florida Today, a judge last week threatened to temporarily block Carnival Corporation from docking its cruise ships at ports in the US.
It noted that in The Miami Herald it was reported that last Wednesday US District Judge Patricia Seitz said she will make a decision in June and she expects Carnival’s chairman Micky Arison and president Donald Arnold to attend that hearing.
Carnival Corporation announced in February plans to develop the world’s largest cruise port in East Grand Bahama. The facility would be able to accommodate two of their largest ships at the same time, revitalising the island’s tourism sector.
The cruise company is leasing 329 acres of land in an area known as Sharp Rock in East Grand Bahama, which is known as an eco-sensitive zone. Carnival Corporation executive Giora Israel said the company is big on protecting the environment, and promised that Carnival would not harm the environment during the construction phase, and would preserve 110 acres as a natural wetland.
Although Carnival Corporation owns several cruise lines, the cruise port in Grand Bahama is being built specifically for its Carnival Cruise Line brand.
In the Florida Today report, it was noted that Carnival currently has three ships based at Port Canaveral in Florida - the Breeze, Liberty and Sunshine. It stated that the Miami-based Carnival Cruise Line is the world’s largest cruise line, with 26 ships. Three new ships are scheduled for delivery — Carnival Panorama in 2019, Carnival Mardi Gras in 2020 and an as-yet-unnamed ship in 2022, according to the report.
It was also noted that according to court filings, Carnival has been on probation for two years as part of a $40 million settlement for illegally dumping oil into the ocean from its Princess Cruises ships and lying about the scheme.
“Despite this, prosecutors say ships have dumped gray water into Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park, prepared ships in advance of court-ordered audits to avoid unfavourable findings, falsified records and dumped plastic garbage into the ocean. The company has acknowledged these incidents in court filings,” the report read.
In a statement, Carnival Chief Communications Officer Roger Frizzell said: “We heard the concerns expressed by Judge Seitz, and will do our utmost to ensure we meet all expectations under the environmental compliance plan and continue to strive to be best in class on environmental compliance. Our environmental responsibility has been and remains a top priority for the company. Our aspiration is to leave the places we touch even better than when we first arrived. This is in the best interest of our guests, our company and the oceans upon which we travel. We look forward to clarifying any issues and demonstrating our commitment.’”
The report indicated that the five-year probation began in April 2017, and requires a third-party auditor to inspect ships belonging to Carnival and its subsidiaries. In all, Carnival owns nine cruise brands and has 102 ships.
In addition to Carnival Cruise Line, Carnival Corp brands include AIDA Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard, Holland America, P&O Cruises (Australia), P&O Cruises (UK), Princess Cruises and Seabourn.
There currently are no changes to the cruise schedules of any of Carnival’s brands as a result of the judge’s threat.
The court filings say that during 2017 Carnival had a programme in place to prepare ships in advance of the audits to avoid negative findings. Seitz ordered the company to stop in December 2017, and it stopped. But federal prosecutors said the practice continued in 2018.
The court filings said the monitor found that Carnival and its subsidiaries repeatedly falsified records, as recently as September 2018, when an engineer on Holland America’s Westerdam ship falsified maintenance records to make it appear he had cleaned and tested equipment when he had not.
The same ship, according to court filings, dumped 26,000 gallons of gray water into Glacier Bay National Park in September 2018.
Monitors also found that the Carnival Elation ship dumped plastic garbage overboard during an audit in December. The plastic wasn’t being separated from food, court filings said.