Voyage Planning, Equipment Failures Cause Carnival's Pollution Woes

Caribbean Princess
Caribbean Princess

By The Maritime Executive 04-17-2019 09:36:46

Carnival Corporation ships illegally discharged more than half a million gallons of oil and waste and burned heavy fuel oil in ports around the world in the year after the corporation's conviction for illegal dumping, according to a court-appointed monitor. 

According to the monitor's report, some instances of pollution appear to be attributable to a failure to develop and follow effective voyage plans and others to equipment failure. This includes unexpected scrubber shutdowns and oil leaks from lifeboats and tenders as a result of corroded fuel tanks, incomplete engine combustion and mechanical failures. Many of the oily water spill incidents resulted from separator equipment malfunctions and failure of oil content meters. Oily water separators often needed to be taken out of service for extended periods of time.

The corporation is on probation as a result of Princess Cruise Lines pleading guilty in 2017 to seven felony counts arising out of vessel pollution from Caribbean Princess and efforts to conceal that pollution, one count of conspiracy, four counts of failure to maintain accurate records and two counts of obstruction of justice.

U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz published the previously confidential monitor's report last week. In the 205-page report, the monitor records hundreds of incidents from April 2017 to April 2018. The Miami Herald reviewed each incident and found that 24 were for illegally dumping sewage, food waste or oil; 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. Carnival reported the violations to authorities directly or noted them in its internal records. 

The monitor's report notes that Carnival has introduced the year-one requirements of the Environmental Compliance Plan that were required to be implemented, such as installation of seals and locks, delivery of training and development of a sampling program. This has required the efforts of hundreds of employees on ships and on shore. Carnival voluntarily extended the scope of the Environmental Compliance Plan to cover all of its vessels, not just those covered by the court's order.

However, the monitor notes a blame culture and a complex corporate structure as hindering opportunities for improvement. “The company's internal investigations are critically flawed,” states the monitor's report. “There is no consistent, reliable means to investigate incidents or near misses and identify root causes that can lead to meaningful corrective actions.”

Recognizing a weakness, Carnival engaged DNV GL to review its investigation process, and the classification society offered its suggestions in May 2018. The monitor will track progress over the coming year.

The Caribbean Princess conviction was not the first pollution case involving a Carnival entity; in 2002, Carnival pleaded guilty to six felony counts after falsifying records to conceal pollution on six ships. At the time of the incidents on the Caribbean Princess in 2005, the corporation was on probation and operating under an Environmental Compliance Plan for specific vessels. In 2017, Princess was sentenced to pay a $40 million penalty, serve a five-year probation and fund a court-appointed monitor.

The Miami Herald reports that Seitz said she regretted not being able to send Carnival's top executives to jail. She will decide whether the corporation’s behavior merits a probation violation at a hearing in June and requested that Chairman Micky Arison and President Arnold Donald be there to answer her questions. She threatened to temporarily block the company from docking its cruise ships at U.S. ports.

Donald said the corporation will do what it takes to ensure it meets the probation expectations and will strive to be best in class on environmental compliance. “Our environmental responsibility has been and remains a top priority for the company,” he said. “Our aspiration is to leave the places we touch even better than when we first arrived. This is in the best interest of our guests, our company and the oceans upon which we travel. We look forward to clarifying any issues and demonstrating our commitment.”

On any given day, over 100 Carnival ships sail with over 300,000 passengers and crew throughout the world.