By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
TRANSPORT and Local Government Minister Renward Wells said yesterday the Attorney General’s Office is assessing the extent of criminality attached to sewage and food waste discharged from Carnival’s vessels in Bahamian waters.
The government will also seek compensation or recompense if it finds damage was done, Mr Wells said yesterday.
He said an accelerated investigative process is now underway in an effort to make decisions.
Mr Wells stressed the government’s firm positions, including that no ship entering this country’s waters should discharge anything harmful, adding the environment and waters will not be compromised and all ships passing through will be held in all respects to the highest international standards.
Speaking in the House of Assembly yesterday, the minister outlined the government’s multi-fold response to Carnival’s actions, which were revealed last month in a report by a United States court appointed monitor.
It covered Carnival’s actions from the period April 2017 to April 2018.
During that time Carnival ships dumped hundreds of thousands of gallons of treated sewage and more than 8,000 gallons of food waste in Bahamian waters, the report revealed.
“The bottom line for us is two-fold: no ship privileged to enter Bahamian waters should discharge anything harmful into our waters. Our environment, our waters, will not be compromised. Our turquoise blue waters, shipping lanes and ocean belong to the people of the Bahamas and we will assure their protection.
“All ships trading in or passing through Bahamian waters will be held in all respects to the highest international standards of conduct.
“This is our bottom line. No compromise.”
Mr Wells said the government’s reaction entailed numerous approaches.
He continued: “So what are we doing about this? The government of the Bahamas has responded very rapidly to this news.
“We have asked the Bahamas Maritime Authority along with the Port Department and all relevant agencies to immediately investigate any and all discharges from vessels in Bahamian waters; to promptly report regarding such discharges; to assess any environmental damage that might have been caused and to make recommendations as to best practices across the board.
“We have communicated with Carnival on several occasions to elicit clarification and substantiation regarding any and all incidents concerning the Bahamas.”
Mr Wells said the government has now received two records from Carnival.
One was a description of all incidents caused by Carnival’s vessels in Bahamian waters, regardless of registry.
The other was a description of all incidents caused by Carnival group Bahamas registered vessels regardless of location.
Both encompass year one – April 2017 to April 2018 — of Carnival’s US court operational audit and year two of the audit, spanning from April 2018 to last month.
Mr Wells told parliamentarians that officials were also processing, cross-referencing and investigating this information using all resources.
And on Monday, he said a joint task force meeting was held to establish coordination among ministries and government entities in what he called an accelerated investigative process.
Mr Wells said the government will ensure the interests of the country, its people and precious marine resources are in all aspects protected.
“We will institute whatever systems and controls are necessary to secure our interests and particularly in these circumstances to seek compensation or recompense for any damage which may be found to have been caused to the ecosystem, waters and fisheries,” he said.