Judge May Block Carnival Cruise Ships from Docking at U.S. Ports

Carnival’s Royal Princess cruise ship docked in Norfolk. Photo: City of Norfolk/ Twitter

A federal judge has reportedly threatened to temporarily bar Carnival Corp. from docking its ships at any U.S. ports, because it may have violated probation in a massive illegal dumping and cover-up case.

Carnival was ordered to pay a $40 million settlement— the largest of it kind— back in 2017 for illegally dumping oil-contaminated waste overboard, and falsifying official logs to conceal the discharges, on its Princess Cruise Line ships. Evidence of illegal practices were found on five Princess cruise ships, going all the way back to 2005, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. As part of the settlement, Carnival was put on a five-year probation, requiring all Carnival cruise ship companies to put environmental compliance plans into place and undergo independent audits.

But court filings show as recently as September 2018, Carnival has been working around those audits, preparing ships just before the court-appointed monitor would arrive, to avoid any negative findings.

On Wednesday, a status conference was held in court about the progress of the Environmental Compliance Plan, where the concerns were raised.

U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz said she would make a decision about whether to revoke Carnival’s probation and punish the company at a hearing in June, according to the Miami Herald.

Seitz criticized Carnival’s top leadership for not taking the violations seriously, and treating the case as “a gnat,” the Herald reports.

In a statement, Carnival said its environmental responsibility is a top priority.

“It appears there were some mischaracterizations made by others to the court. We intend to fully address the issues raised,” said Carnival Chief Communications Officer Roger Frizzell.

“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.”

Carnival operates more than 100 ships under nine different cruise brands. Its ships sail regularly out of both the Port of Baltimore and Port Norfolk.

Carnival Pride is based in Baltimore, sailing about 50 times year-round to the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Caribbean.

Port of Baltimore Director of Communications Richard Scher tells Bay Bulletin, “We are closely monitoring this situation and stay in regular contact with Carnival. Cruising from the Port of Baltimore generates about $1 million in economic impacts per sailing, so a ban would have an impact.”

Carnival Sunshine sails from Norfolk, and Carnival-owned AIDA and Princess cruises are scheduled to sail out of Norfolk this year as well.

-Meg Walburn Viviano