Tourism & Cruises

Carnival is accused of dumping treated sewage. Now, the Bahamas is investigating

The Bahamas was the country most affected by Carnival Corp.’s violations, mostly related to sewage and food waste. In one July 2017 instance, the Carnival Pride ship dumped 15 pounds of food waste into Half Moon Cay, the company’s private island used as a beach for cruise passengers.
The Bahamas was the country most affected by Carnival Corp.’s violations, mostly related to sewage and food waste. In one July 2017 instance, the Carnival Pride ship dumped 15 pounds of food waste into Half Moon Cay, the company’s private island used as a beach for cruise passengers. Miami Herald

The Bahamian government announced it will investigate Carnival Corp.’s discharge of nearly half a million gallons of treated sewage into its waters, following a report released by a U.S. judge earlier this month.

In the report, an independent court-appointed monitor overseeing Carnival Corp.’s environmental compliance flagged 13 incidents in which Carnival illegally dumped the treated sewage in the Bahamian waters during the cruise company’s first year of probation, in violation of Bahamian and international rules. Most of the dumps occurred during a two-week stretch in June 2017 — all on Carnival Cruise Line ships.

Carnival Corp. reported all incidents to Bahamian authorities and said the discharges were the result of human error and not intentional.

“We take these issues very seriously and we are vigorously addressing them,” said Roger Frizzell, a spokesman for Carnival Corp.

Carnival’s probation stems from a 2016 guilty plea to seven felony charges in relation to its eight-year-long “conspiracy” of illegal oil dumping and subsequent cover-up on five of its Princess Cruise Line ships. Miami-based Carnival Corp., the largest cruise company in the world and owner of nine cruise brands, paid a $40 million fine. In fiscal year 2018, the company reported a profit of $3.2 billion.

During its first year on probation, Carnival did not repeat any of the same environmental crimes it was convicted of in 2016. None of the ships that dumped treated sewage in Bahamian waters are registered with the Bahamas, but many Carnival Corp. ships are registered there, giving the country authority over Carnival Corp. activities.

The Bahamas’ Minister of Transport and Local Government Renward Wells said that the government will undertake a “comprehensive” review into the “disturbing” report, the Nassau Guardian reported Wednesday.

“As the port and coastal state in which the violations may have occurred, The Bahamas will investigate and take measures as appropriate,” Wells said in a statement.

The government has asked the Port Department and the Bahamas Maritime Authority to contact Carnival Corp. to conduct an investigation into the allegations raised in the report, according to the Nassau Guardian.

“Contact has already been made with Carnival, who is cooperating fully with The Bahamas and has pledged full transparency in the investigation into the circumstances of this matter,” Wells said in the statement. Any recommendations to ensure such dumping does not happen again will be implemented following the investigation, the statement said.

Frizzell said the company is looking forward to meeting with Bahamian officials and claimed the dumping had no negative impact to marine life or people.

International law allows cruise ships to discharge treated sewage three miles from land. But some countries, including the Bahamas, require ships to dump their sewage 12 miles off land. The Bahamas is comprised of 700 islands, and therefore created a protected zone around all of them. Carnival’s treated sewage discharges happened while its ships were inside that zone, but at times more than 12 miles offshore.

“We have instituted additional training, oversight and tools for our ship personnel to aid them in properly diagnosing and navigating archipelago zones and boundaries,” Frizzell said in a statement. “We realize any infraction is one too many. The environment and sustainability has been and remains a top priority for the company.”

U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz released the previously confidential report, which highlighted incidents between April 2017 and April 2018, “so the public can see what this criminal defendant is doing,” she said. Seitz is considering making the monitor’s reports from the second year of probation public as well. The Miami Herald has filed a motion in the case requesting that those reports be released.

In the 205-page report, the monitor flagged more than 800 incidents on Carnival Corp.-operated ships globally. The Miami Herald reviewed each of those, finding 19 were for illegally burning heavy fuel oil in protected areas and more than 150 were the result of items like furniture accidentally going overboard. Other violations included incorrect logs, missing records and broken machinery parts.

Seitz will decide whether Carnival Corp.’s behavior merits a probation violation at a hearing in June. The company has had two prior convictions for the same crimes before 2016’s — one in 1998 and another in 2002. Seitz called the cruise company “a recidivist criminal” at a hearing earlier this month.

Seitz has requested that both the company’s chairman and president be at the next hearing to answer her questions. She threatened to temporarily block the company from docking any of its 105 cruise ships at U.S. ports., saying she would decide after the June hearing.

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Caitlin Ostroff is a data reporter for McClatchy’s DC Bureau, based at the Miami Herald. She uses data analysis and coding to present and report information as part of the investigative team.
Taylor Dolven covers the tourism industry at the Miami Herald, where she aims to tell stories about the people who work in tourism and the people who enjoy it. Previously, she worked at Vice News in Brooklyn, NY, where she won a Front Page Award from the Newswomen’s Club of NY for a national investigation of police shootings.