Carnival Corp. has been in the news quite a bit the last two weeks. The main story floating around concerns comments made by a US District Judge for the Southern District of Florida.

That hearing was taking place to report on a Court Appointed Monitor’s (CAM) findings into environmental practices taking place onboard Carnival Corp’s 100+ vessels. The Miami Herald was actually present during the hearing and reported it accordingly. From then on, other news outlets picked it up and it kind of went viral. As typically happens, some of those reports became wildly inaccurate, and some future cruisers are now worried.

Background

Let’s begin with what started all of this. Between 2010 to 2013, the US Coast Guard investigating the Caribbean Princess . They alleged that the ship was discharging oily bilge from her slops and machinery spaces without passing it through the Oil-Water separator. The Chief Engineer then falsified the discharge logs which is recorded from the ships white box. This is a supposedly tamper proof device that keeps a record of the discharges from the ships bilge out to the sea.

In December 2016, Carnival Corp., more specifically Princess Cruise Lines Ltd., pled guilty to seven felony counts levied against them by the U.S. Department of Justice. It breaks down as follows:

  • One count of conspiracy,
  • Four counts of valuating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships of 1980,
  • And two counts of obstruction.
Exhibit 7: Before and after photographs of the carbon pump showing the bypass in place.
Exhibit 15: Depiction showing how a portable pump and flexible hoses were used to transfer from the the Clean Bilge Tank (R) to the top hatch of graywater tank (L).

Under Section 2, Part D of the plea agreement Princess Cruise Line’s parent company Carnival Corp., would incur “a term of probation of five years, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3561(c)(1).” This probation includes many items that Carnival Corp. must adhere to. For example, to “develop, adopt, establish…remedial measures set forth in the Environmental Compliance Plan (“ECP”).“ Another requirement as part of the agreement is the requirement of CAM’s to keep an eye on all their ships via random and announced audits.

It was this CAM’s report that was submitted in court the other week. On the surface, it seems the sheer number of separate instances brought to light sparked all the stories and accusations against Carnival. It may have also been the judge’s remarks that sparked them as well.

The people at the top are treating this as a gnat. If I could, I would give all the members of the executive committee a visit to the detention center for a couple of days. It’s amazing how that helps people come to focus on reality.

She also mentioned that at the official probation hearing in June, she will decide whether or not to take Carnival off of probation or to enact further punishment against them. There are many levels of punishments that can be levied against Carnival Corp. for the apparent violations. The judge had stated that an extreme option would be to blacklist the major offending ships. This is what had cruisers worried as the clickbait headlines soon started appearing coming out with that blacklist claim, minus the context. It’s causing unnecessary concern amongst future cruisers. A trip to your local cruise forum finds summer passengers worried that their cruises will be canceled. This won’t happen.

The Report

During the hearing the entire confidential report was submitted that covered all reported instances of a possible non-conformity within the established ECM. This totaled 835 separate instances across 79 vessels.

Those 835 violations are individual recorded instances of a non-compliance with the ECP as outlined as a result of the 2016 plea deal and/or the lines International Safety Management (ISM) Code. These 835 break down as follows:

  • 77 cases of seals or locks failing
  • 69 cases of refrigerants being emitted
  • 64 cases of an oil water separator failing or whitebox
  • 47 instances of issues with the lifeboats
  • 71 inconsistencies with recordkeeping
  • 54 instances of inconsistencies of training and certificates
  • 35 voyage planning issues
  • 34 instances of scrubbers not working
  • 26 instances of issues with the oil control monitoring systems  
  • There’s an additional 358 documented instances. These are documented as the being in the miscellaneous category.

These are two examples from the miscellaneous filed category. They show how in depth the auditors were being. This explains why that 835 number is so high.


(click for larger)

(click for larger)

It’s no wonder Carnival fought hard to have these expunged from the record as they feel it’s out of their control if the new hardware and technology breaks down.

It’s important to remember that Carnival Corp. must be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Public opinion, due to the hastily written articles, appears to have shifted. They have released a statement is as follows:

“It appears there were some mischaracterizations made by others to the court. We intend to fully address the issues raised at today’s court conference. Our environmental responsibility has been and continues to be a top priority for the company. Our aspiration is to leave the places we touch even better than when we first arrived. This is only in the best interest of our guests, our company and the oceans upon which we travel.”

Throughout the report, there’s also many, many positive remarks towards Carnival. It must be stated that the CAM’s are not ‘out to get Carnival.’ There are comments along of the lines of Carnival going above and beyond their ECP requirements, or their internal initiative called Operation Oceans Alive and it has been documented and submitted to the court. They also hired a classification society to run mock audits of the ships to ensure that they are up to the correct standard.

We’ll see what happens at the June hearing. Once again I must state that future cruises have nothing to worry about. Don’t cancel your cruise, don’t change your plans in anticipation of some sanctions happening. You can bet that Carnival will be taking measures between now and then (and probably have already since the report was issued to them). They will present them to the judge at the hearing and make sure their side is heard and understood.

HISTORY

In 1999, Royal Caribbean pled guilty and was fined by the DOJ for dumping oily waste and then falsifying the logs to the US Coast Guard. It was that last part that warranted the $18 million fine. I bring this up because at the time, it was the largest fine against a cruise line by the DOJ. Janet Reno handled the case.

In 2002, NCL plead guilty in the same court to a similar offense. They incurred a $1 million fine and also established a court mandated ECP.

SOURCES

A lot of work and research went into this article including consulting former federal law enforcement. My source material is as follows:

  • Status of ECP Year One Requirements – LINK
  • ECP Year One Incidents Tracked by the CAM – LINK
  • First Annual Report of the Court Appointed Monitor (2017-2018) – LINK
  • 16-20897-CR-SEITZ Plea Agreement – LINK
  • 16-20897-CR-SEITZ/TURNOFF full case – LINK
  • Government’s Exhibits in Support of the Joint Factual Statement – LINK