Pollution Case to Have Consequences for Carnival Ships

By ,   December 13, 2016 ,   Cruise Industry

Carnival Ecstasy, which is based in Charleston and all other cruise vessels sailing under Carnival Corp.'s 8 brands will be under stringent environmental monitoring during the next 5 years - the result of agreement between federal prosecutors and the company to end a criminal pollution case.

The Princess Cruises division of Carnival agreed this month to plead guilty to 7 felony charges and pay a record US$40 million fine after it was caught dumping thousands of gallons of oily waste, called bilge water, into the ocean for about eight years. The Port of Charleston was among the ports that prosecutors say Princess Cruises visited when the pollution scheme was taking place, and that pollution likely occurred in U.S. waters.

Princess Cruises' employees tried to cover up the pollution with false entries in record books used to track the waste, court records show. The cruise line will officially enter its guilty plea at a Dec. 20 hearing in federal court in Miami.

Prosecutors focused on five Princess Cruises ships, but court documents show vessels in Carnival's other divisions have kept inaccurate waste discharge records in violation of federal law. The other ships aren't named, but U.S. Attorney's offices in 18 districts, including South Carolina, have agreed to forego prosecution in exchange for the guilty plea.

Under the agreement, all of Carnival's 99 ships, including the Ecstasy, will have to take part in a court-monitored environmental compliance program while Princess Cruises is on probation for the next five years.

The plan includes third-party auditors to make sure the vessels follow all U.S. pollution control laws. Carnival will have to update its policies and training programs and make sure an environmental officer is on each ship. There will be inspections by the U.S. Coast Guard and annual audits.

And Carnival will have to make sure there is enough money available to properly dispose of waste while ships are in port rather than at sea. Prosecutors said on one of the reasons Princess Cruises dumped its pollution at sea was to save on costs.

This is the second time Carnival has been caught violating US pollution laws. In 2002, Carnival pleaded guilty to several felonies for discharging oily waste into the ocean. Carnival paid an $18 million fine and was placed on probation in that case.