Port of Galveston leaders should make it abundantly clear to Carnival Cruise Line they expect a corporate partner, with which it does substantial business, to be a responsible environmental steward. Port leaders should insist on action by the cruise line, not more empty public relations babble.

More crucially, cruise passengers should make that clear to the Florida-based cruise line. Consumers, through their pocketbooks, have the power to reform a corporate system.

Along with the health of the Gulf of Mexico and oceans upon which Carnival passenger ships sail, much is a stake. Thousands of livelihoods depend on Carnival’s ability to continuing sailing from U.S. ports, including Galveston’s.

Three Carnival Corp. ships — the Freedom, Valor and Vista – travel out of Galveston to ports in the Caribbean, Mexico, Jamaica, Belize and Honduras.

U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz, of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida, has threatened to block Carnival ships from docking at U.S. ports after assertions the cruise line repeatedly dumped waste into the ocean and lied to federal regulators about its actions despite being on probation for breaking environmental laws, according to a report published Tuesday by the Miami Herald.

The newly released data, which was collected and shared by a Miami newspaper, records more than 800 environmental compliance problems from April 2017 to April 2018, and includes incidents during which ships that sailed from Galveston dumped sewage, food waste and oil.

The environmental compliance report was written by a Washington, D.C. attorney appointed to oversee Carnival Corp. after it pleaded guilty to illegal dumping and a coverup in 2016. Carnival at the time agreed to pay a $40 million fine and to five years probation, and was ordered to undergo five years of court-supervised environmental compliance monitoring aboard 78 ships from its 101-ship fleet, according to the Miami Herald.

While on probation, Carnival Freedom, sailing from Galveston, discharged 123,368 gallons of “treated black water/sewage” and 1,637 gallons of food waste in Bahaman waters in June 2017, according to the report.

Carnival Cruise Line apparently didn’t learn an expensive lesson. Or perhaps it wasn’t expensive enough.

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,” according to the Miami Herald report.

At a hearing earlier this month, Seitz mentioned a 45-minute presentation she received as a guest aboard Carnival Corp.’s ultra-luxury cruise line Seabourn about how damaging plastic straws are to the marine environment.

“I was thinking to myself, ‘I’m impressed,’ “ she said. “Obviously they talk the talk, but they’re not walking the walk.”

Seitz is set to decide in June whether the new report proves Carnival violated its probation, during which time she could decide whether to block Carnival ships from U.S. ports.

Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald said the company would continue to attempt to meet the terms of its probation.

“Our environmental responsibility has been and remains a top priority for the company,” Donald said. “Our aspiration is to leave the places we touch even better than we first arrived.”

If Carnival doesn’t shape up and Seitz does more than talk, the port and the island, which has invested many millions of dollars to build cruise ship terminals and accommodate passengers, stands to lose in the most painful way.

Members of the wharves board expect Port of Galveston Director Rodger Rees to brief the board about what Carnival’s travails might mean for Galveston.

In reality, there’s only so much the Port of Galveston can do, short of severing its business relationship with Carnival, to get the attention of cruise lines. And no one wants to see that, leaving the port to do little more than some stern finger-wagging. Pressure must come from cruise passengers, who hold the real power. To believe cruise ship passengers don’t care about marine life and sustainable measures in the industry is to underestimate today’s consumer.

Earlier this month, Adam Goldstein, vice chairman of Royal Caribbean Cruises and global chairman of Cruise Lines International Association, speaking at the associations’ annual conference in Port Everglades, Florida, spent most of his keynote talking about the environmental and sustainability side of the industry and how it likely would influence future sales discussions.

“It’s the challenge of being responsible stewards of sustainable activity, so that we maintain the wonderful privilege that we have of navigating the oceans of the world and bringing you and your customers to more than 1,000 destinations,” Goldstein told the audience, according to Travel Agent Central.

Let’s hope Carnival listens.

• Laura Elder

 Laura Elder: 409-683-5248; laura.elder@galvnews.com

(13) comments

Rusty Schroeder

This will be settled by a big fine and a pay off to the Bahamian government. Carnival isn't going to be blocked access to US ports and have a contract with the Port of Galveston, it benefits Galveston to have them so I doubt any "serious finger wagging" will happen. As far as cruise passengers having a say, that will be settled with a $25 drink voucher for every angry customer outraged over this illegal dumping that will take the time to write or email. If they choose to boycott Carnival another person will take their place, it's that simple. Galveston needs Carnival, the port isn't going to do a thing to damage that relationship. It will be settled by money, lots of money that will shut people up and business as usual will continue. The Bahamian government sure doesn't want to lose American tourist money that Carnival brings, they are a partner too.

Patricia C Newsom

The cruise lines know how lucrative it is having a place to dock in Galveston. I feel pretty confident that if Carnaval cruise is banned from US waters, there will be another cruise line, standing in line, to take its place.
You need to cut their source to pay their fines before they will comply with international and US dumping laws that have been in place for decades.
Ban Carnaval until compliance with US and international dumping laws.

Diane Turski

I think the statement by the Carnival Corp. CEO, Arnold Donald, that "the company would continue to attempt to meet the terms of its probation" really means that they plan to attempt to continue their illegal, filthy, and selfish behavior.

George Croix

One wonders how tall the fish manage to hold it in all of their lives.....[beam][beam]

Maybe THAT is why they get bigger as they get older.....

Miceal O'Laochdha

Laura: May I suggest a line of investigative reporting that would go straight to the heart of what can be done locally to "encourage" Carnival to comply with the International laws applicable to this subject? Ask the CO of the local USCG MSO in Texas city to provide the newspaper with a list of all the Port State Control (PSC)Inspections that they have conducted on Carnival ships while in Galveston for say, the last 5 years. Such inspections, which are conducted by the PSC authorities of every country (that have ports for internationally trading ships) t their sole discretion, include sighting of the vessels' Garbage Log and Oil Record Book (ORC) and are the means by which non-compliance are discovered and enforcement actions are rendered. If few PSC Inspections are being conducted in Galveston, then our own cognizant authorities are not doing all they can to prevent the illegal dumping of oil and garbage. Lt us also be clear on the terms being used here. Gray Water is the water drsaining from sinks, showers and the Galley. Black Water and sewage are interchangeable terms for the drainage from toilets. "Treated" black water is properly termed effluent and is the outflow water from an Regulatory Body-approved Marine Sanitation Device and is, in generally terms, deemed environmentally acceptable for discharge into the ocean. .Consider the Ocean Ranger

Miceal O'Laochdha

Sorry, fat fingers let previous message go out prematurely. Continuing: consider the Ocean Ranger Program employed in Alaska waters for years now. The problem with passenger ship MSD effluent (generally completely legal discharge) is the massive amount of it produced on these types of ships and their very frequent time in ports and coastal waters. Thus many areas (started in Alaska0 have passed local laws restricting the quantity of MSD effluent that can be discharged in their waters. Ocean Rangers are former Chief Engineers who are hired to ride the ships and observe the behavior of the ship's crew as to compliance with the law and report any violations to the cognizant Port State Control Authority for corrective action. Actions to enforce compliance can, when used robustly, result in pulling the individual ship's Safety Management Certificate (SMS), which prevents it from sailing port until the corrective action is satisfied or the pulling of the company's Certificate of Compliance (CoC) which prevents the company's entire fleet of vessels from sailing from port until corrective actions are satisfied. In egregious cases, the local PSC (in this country that is the USCG) can charge the ship's captain and, if an ORB violation, the ship's Chief Engineer criminally in US court and that has been done. Ocean Ranger programs can be effective in halting intentional non-compliance with international law by ships and companies but, the first step would be to find out if PSC Inspections are even being done regularly on these ships in Galveston.

lauraelder Staff
Laura Elder

Thank you. This is informative and we will request that information you suggested. Since this report, I wondered what they did with black water. We'll follow up on this. I'd like to know more. I think readers would, too.

Miceal O'Laochdha

Laura, A bit more information that may be useful to you: try to get not only a count of PSC inspections, but also see the reports themselves, to determine if the inspectors did indeed sight the Safety Management Certificate (SMC), the Garbage Log and the ORB. This should be public information.

These PSC inspections are applicable only to foreign flag vessels, which all these passenger ships are. USCG inspections of US Flag ships are more extensive and rigorous than PSC inspections of Flag of Convenience ships.

Gary Scoggin

Miceal... I appreciate your insight and knowledge on this topic. Very informative.

Wayne Holt

I don't know to what extent those at the top were aware of these practices or whether it was just pressure felt by the individual ships' staff that translated to cutting corners...

...but anyone who has ever had to battle a bank, insurance company, phone or internet provider or a host of other "services" understands the song and dance routine that is read verbatim by the rep you are dealing with. It includes all possible permutations of, "We are so sorry; we understand; I would be frustrated, too; we're committed to doing better; your concerns are heard loud and clear," and every other way to try to get you to calm down, shut up and let them get back to abusing you/the environment/the law/common human decency for the sake of their bottom line.

If this is a repeat of their earlier antics, it would be unconscionable. As bad as their dumping actions may prove to be, I actually would find the hypocrisy of claiming environmental stewardship as they foul the oceans to be an even more egregious violation of the public trust.

Don Schlessinger

In the 1970s it wasn’t uncommon for tankers and freighters to pass through or near offshore oil fields dumping waste oil, and fuel. Oil companies took the heat from the Feds. We helicopter pilots were encouraged to report any ship we witnessed doing it. If we could get a ship’s name it made is easier for the Coast Guard to catch them. It was effective, and gratifying to be able to help. That practice isn’t done anymore because of the heavy fines and bad press.

Robert Braeking

Perhaps the city of Galveston should install a pipeline from the docks to the already over capacity sewage plant.

Gary Miller

Require the cruise lines wanting docking privleges to build waste treatment plants dedicated to marine businesses.

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