Judge piles pollution pressure on Carnival Cruises

Discarded plastic bottles washing up on shore

A federal judge in the US has urged Carnival Corp. executives to work harder and faster to address pollution caused by cruise ships

At a recent hearing in federal court in Miami, US District Judge Patricia Seitz said that Carnival needed to take concrete action and stop making promises that were clearly not being kept.

“We’re not there,” the judge said, bluntly. “And we should be.”

Carnival Chairman Micky Arison offered these platitudes in return: “We strive to be perfect. We won’t ever be perfect, but we are going to work toward that.”

While executives did rightly point out that it is not a simple matter to implement wide-ranging changes in a company that has over 100,000 employees and operates more than 100 vessels under various different brands, such words ring a little hollow when one takes into account the fact that Carnival is currently serving a probation sentence for a 2016 conviction for criminal pollution – probation that it admitted to violating this year, resulting in a US$20-million penalty.

Among the crimes for which the cruise line was condemned were dumping plastic in the sea along with food waste and dumping so-called ‘gray water’ in protected areas such as Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska.

Carnival said that it is taking steps to phase out plastics on board its vessels, including plastic bottles – an estimated 50 million of which are used on its ships every year. But the cruise line has been accused of fostering a corporate culture that sees environmental laws as tedious distractions to be dodged as much as possible, rather than essential regulations that should be baked into all its processes.

According to its own reports, between 2015 and 2018, Carnival Corp’s emissions of greenhouse gases rose by three per cent between 2015 and 2018, equating to over 10 million metric tons.