Carnival Corporation executives were back in federal court Wednesday to answer for the company’s latest series of environmental violations while on probation.
With his lawyer at his side, Micky Arison, the company’s former CEO and current chairman, spoke in court about the challenges of the company’s operations.
“We’ve hired experts that will hopefully get to the bottom of it,” Arison said. “It’s a process. We try to get better every day.”
In answer to questions by U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz in Miami, who has overseen the environmental case since it began in 2016, Arison also made a rare public statement about the 2012 cruise ship crash that killed 32 people in Italian waters. “It was the worst day of my life,” Arison said, clearly upset.
The ship involved, Costa Concordia was owned by Miami-based Carnival Corporation, the largest cruise company in the world, which owns the cruise line Costa along with eight other lines.
Carnival Corp. is halfway through its five year probation after pleading guilty to environmental crimes — dumping oily waste into the ocean on its Princess Cruises ships and covering it up — in 2016 and paying a $40 million fine. As part of the probation agreement, the company vowed to pollute less. In June, Carnival Corp. pleaded guilty again for violating its probation by continuing to pollute the ocean and paid a $20 million fine. Now, the company must allow more stringent oversight by the court-appointed monitor.
In his most recent report, the court appointed monitor found incidents of plastic mixed with food waste and burning heavy fuel oil in protected areas, including Key West, Florida, on Carnival Corp. ships.
Seitz questioned why the company hasn’t made the dramatic changes necessary to crack down on its pollution problem, citing safety improvements instituted after the Concordia tragedy. Arison said the company lobbied the Italian government to allow the company to train its Italian mariners and invested more in training overall.
“How impressive it was that the company developed that... in looking at what was accomplished there, it gives me hope,” Seitz said. “But the question is I keep seeing repeated incidents.
“I feel like I am Sisyphus pushing the rock up the hill and it keeps rolling back down on me and we aren’t going anywhere.”
Seitz said she wants to see more solid metrics of success from Carnival Corp. The company will be back in court in December.