Judge Threatens to Deny Carnival Docking in US Ports for Breaking Probation

Canary. Photo by 4028mdk09.

According to a Miami Herald report on April 10, a federal judge “threatened to stop Carnival Corp. from docking its ships at U.S. ports temporarily as punishment for possibly violating probation but said she would make a decision at a hearing scheduled for June.”


In April 2016, “in a scheme where a cruise line cut corners and dumped oil-contaminated water into the ocean,” US federal prosecutors charged Princess Cruises “with seven felonies after a years-long investigation that began with the information from a British engineer in 2013.”

In August of that year, an engineer on the ship recorded with his cell phone as supervising engineers on the 3,142-passenger Caribbean Princess instructed workers to bypass the ship’s filtration system in an effort to avoid the costs of properly offloading oil-contaminated water. An effort led by the ship’s chief engineer and senior first engineer tried to cover up the crime by falsifying records.

Investigators later found the discharge was likely one of several instances where the ship spewed pollution into the Atlantic, including off the shores of U.S. ports from Texas to South Florida and along the Eastern Seaboard in 2012 and 2013.

The Doral, Florida based Princess Cruise line is owned by the parent company Carnival Corp, “was sentenced to a $40 million penalty … for illegally dumping oily water overboard and falsifying official logs to hide the damage.”

The fine is the largest ever imposed for crimes involving vessel pollution, according to U.S. Department of Justice. The sentence, rendered in district court in Miami, also called for a $1 million award to the British whistleblower who first reported the pollution scheme to the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

About $10 million of the penalty will be directed to community-service programs that will benefit the maritime environment.

Part of the settlement was a five year probation that began in 2017 “of court-supervised environmental compliance monitoring aboard 78 ships from its 101-ship fleet.”

Cruise ships are required to abide by international standards for discharging oily water that drips from the ship engine’s lubrication and fuel system. Onboard filtration systems separate oil from water, removing enough contamination to make the water legally OK to pump overboard.

On April 10th, Roger Frizzell, Carnival’s Chief Communications Officer, appeared in front of US District Judge Patricia Seitz over new court filed allegations that “Carnival Corp. and its subsidiary cruise lines” possibly broke their probation.

Carnival has been on probation for the last two years as part of a $40 million settlement for illegally dumping oil into the ocean from its Princess Cruises ships for eight years and lying about the scheme to U.S. authorities. While on probation, according to court filings, Carnival Corp. and its subsidiary cruise lines have sought to avoid unfavorable findings by preparing ships in advance of court-ordered audits, falsified records, dumped plastic garbage into the ocean and illegally discharged gray water into Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska. The company also has tried to lobby the U.S. Coast Guard through a back channel to change the terms of the settlement, prosecutors allege. The company has acknowledged these incidents.

According to the court filings, the Miami Herald reports, at the beginning of their probation in 2017, Carnival put a system in place that would head off the auditors in a scheme to “avoid any negative findings by the independent court-appointed monitor.” When Carnival was caught doing this Judge Seitz ordered them to stop, but prosecutors now allege the company continued into 2018.

Prosecutors cited internal emails shared at Carnival’s brands discussing how to prepare for the audits. “It would be really important to go onboard on August 12 for one week in order to have time to manage issues before the audits and avoid findings,” said a 2017 internal email from Carnival’s German-based cruise line AIDA Cruises. A similar internal email from Carnival’s Seattle-based Holland America Line mentioned “prevent audit findings” as a goal in early 2018.

According to court filings, the court-appointed monitor found that Carnival and its subsidiaries have repeatedly falsified records while on probation as recently as September 2018, when a second engineer on Holland America’s Westerdam ship falsified maintenance records to make it look like he had cleaned and tested equipment when he had not.

In March 2018, Carnival asked the court appointed monitors, who file all “major non-conformities” in their quarterly and annual reports, to exclude faulty ship equipment from that definition, which they refused to do.

Rear Admiral Joseph Servidio, a senior vice president of Holland America Group for safety, environmental and management services, then contacted his Coast Guard former colleagues “seeking support for Carnival’s definition,” according to federal prosecutors. The Coast Guard “directed Servidio to raise the issue with the monitors or the court.”

Carnival denies Servidio actions to contact his former colleagues on behalf of Carnival was to lobby, but instead “was to get clarification about the definition” of non-conformities.

Judge Seitz has set a hearing for June to decide whether to revoke Carnival’s probation and punish them. The Miami based Princess Cruise chairman and president Micky Arison and Arnold Donald, respectively, were not present in court.

Scolding the absent executive members, Judge Seitz said, “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.”

Seitz requested the presence of Arison and Donald along with Holland America executives Stein Kruse, Keith Taylor and retired Rear Admiral Servidio, and Carnival Cruise Line president Christine Duffy to attend the June hearing to answer questions.

For full content and context read Miami Herald‘s Federal judge threatens to temporarily block Carnival ships from docking at U.S. ports.

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