By Syann Thompson
IN the wake of new reports of Carnival Cruise Lines dumping its waste in Bahamian waters, Attorney General Carl Bethel said the government will seek compensation under recently passed environment laws.
Tribune Business reported yesterday that a monitor appointed by a South Florida federal court revealed the Carnival Cruise Line committed further environmental infractions last year – some of which occurred while vessels were in port in Nassau and Freeport.
The monitor’s latest report, filed on New Year’s Eve, detailed incidents including the March 6, 2019, discharge of 34 cubic metres of black water/sewage in Bahamian waters from the MS Maasdam as it sailed from Half Moon Cay, the private island, to Fort Lauderdale.
Also cited was a September 9, 2019 incident involving the Carnival Sunrise when “a considerable amount of rust” was discharged into Nassau harbour after a technician started up an “infrequently used water pump” while the vessel was docked at Prince George Wharf.
When question about the revelations ahead of a Cabinet meeting yesterday, the Attorney General told reporters cruise lines are well aware of their responsibilities while in Bahamian waters. He said the government will seek to recover damages from Carnival.
“Certainly, steps will be taken by the government under the environmental protection laws that we have to seek recompense, compensation, the assessment of damages etc. Everything depends on the level of damages,” Mr Bethel said.
“And there’s the fundamental principle that the cruise lines, all of them know full well that there is to be no dumping within the archipelagic baseline in waters of The Bahamas. That is a well-known principle of law, they are never supposed to be dumping in our archipelagic baseline, that means within the territorial waters of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, at the end of the day we all share an interest in preserving the pristine environment of our country.”
The Environmental Planning and Protection Act 2019 allows for a coordinated governmental response to spills and accidental releases of pollutants into the environment including the discharge of hazardous substances, chemicals or oil into Bahamian waters or any area of the environment.
Mr Bethel said in order to address this environmental matter, all stakeholders will have to meet. “The protection of the environment is a matter of critical importance not only to the government but to the people of The Bahamas. Recently we passed the most modern environmental protection legislation a part of which allows for damages for historic pollution. We will be having discussions with the Bahamas Maritime Authority and subsequently with all the parties that may be involved, and we will see where we will go from there,” he said.
The Environmental Planning and Protection Act entails a series of fines and penalties allowing them to be directly proportional to the environmental infraction. This law allows fines from $500 to $30 million and or imprisonment not exceeding ten years.
Mr Bethel said the cruise lines that take their voyages through the archipelago because of the beauty of Bahamian waters and must realise that the very thing they are marketing is what they are destroying.
He said, “Every ship must maintain a log that must record every incident that occurs during any voyage, all the major shipping lines, all the major shippers and all the major cruise lines. So, we will have due access to all the relevant information in short order. I just want to ensure the Bahamian people that these matters will be dealt with seriousness that it deserves. We are now armed with a host of environmental laws that give the government real power to deal with these matters.”
Last year, Carnival was fined $20m in a US court for previous environment infractions. In December, the Minnis administration passed a package of environmental laws which Mr Bethel said at the time would give the country the “legal right” to seek damages caused to the country’s eco-systems by historic pollution.