By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
A BRIDGE officer on Carnival Conquest offered to cover up the ship’s prohibited dumping of 66,000 gallons of ballast water into Bahamian waters in November 2018, according to one of the latest court-mandated reports of Carnival’s ocean activities.
The 2018 report obtained by The Tribune this week follows a 2017 report which revealed Carnival ships dumped hundreds of thousands of gallons of treated sewage and more than 8,000 gallons of food waste within the Bahamas’ archipelagic baseline.
The latest report does not say whether the dumped ballast water was treated, though Carnival officials have stressed that its discharges are treated. Untreated ballast water could introduce new invasive species into an environment, devastating ecosystems, according to the International Maritime Organisation.
The dumping incident happened on November 24, 2018.
The court appointed monitor, Steven Solow, wrote: “According to the preliminary findings described in the flash report, the company attributed the incident to the failure of the watch-keeping engineer to attend a meeting with the bridge, ‘to follow the instructions provided by the bridge during the briefing at the start of the watch as well as the chief engineer’s standing orders,’ or ‘to inform the bridge before conducting the discharge operation.’ While the prohibited discharge is significant in and of itself, the flash report goes on to state that a bridge officer ‘offered to cover up the occurrence and change the time and location of the discharge to indicate it had occurred in a permitted area.’ Approximately ten minutes after making this offer, the bridge officer reportedly called the engineer back to say that he was going to (properly) report the violation to the staff captain. Any purported offer to falsify records to conceal an illegal discharge is highly concerning, both in light of the record-keeping falsifications that were part of the underlying criminal conduct on the Caribbean Princess and because such an offer raises significant concerns about the presence of a blame culture within the company.”
A monitor is required to review Carnival’s activities after the corporation pleaded guilty to vessel pollution and efforts to conceal that pollution in 2016. The corporation is on probation.
According to the court appointed monitor, Carnival performed two investigations into the ballast water incident: Risk Advisory and Assurance Services (RAAS) was assigned to investigate the prohibited discharge and Carnival Cruise Line’s Compliance Department was assigned to investigate the alleged cover-up.
Mr Solow said neither investigation was adequate.
“…A comprehensive investigation and root cause analysis would look beyond the actions of the involved ship personnel to consider whether systemic issues played a meaningful role in this incident, including issues related to: training, voyage planning, workload/insufficient manning, and culture,” he wrote. “However, the company’s investigation does not appear to do so. The investigation report addressing the prohibited ballast water discharge focuses on the actions of the involved ship personnel. It concludes that the watch-keeping engineer ‘improperly discharged overboard the ballast of his own free will’ and that ‘the root cause can be classified as human error, decision based.’”
The monitor said the report attributes blame for the incident to the watch keeping engineer and other ship personnel but “does not valuate the role of broader, systemic issues that may have contributed to the incident, such as the company’s possible failures to provide adequate training to engineers and bridge officers; to provide ships with adequate voyage planning tools and support; to hire sufficient numbers of engineers to ensure that the workload of watch-keeping engineers is manageable; or to hire sufficiently experienced and trained engineers such that watch-keeping duties are assigned to individuals able to competently discharge their duties.”
Mr Solow added: “Similarly, the investigation report addressing the cover-up offer focuses on the actions and motivations of the involved Bridge officer without exploring potential underlying systemic causes. It concludes that the bridge officer “most likely offered to cover up the occurrence, due to fear of having made a mistake and the consequences of possibly losing his job,” and that “with all likelihood, fear factor was the root cause of the alleged cover up. The report does not, however, go deeper to evaluate the reasons why the bridge officer had a ‘fear of having made a mistake’ and was so driven by this ‘fear factor’ that he considered falsifying records—a potentially criminal offence. For instance, the report does not acknowledge or address that the true root cause of the incident might be the presence (or perception) of a blame culture within the company.”
The 2018 report from Mr Solow, which describes Carnival’s efforts to prepare ships in advance of court-ordered audits to avoid unfavourable findings, recently prompted a US Judge’s threat to block Carnival ships from docking in US ports.