Several Carnival Corporation cruise ships discharged nearly 500,000 gallons of treated sewage, which it referred to as “black water”, into Bahamian waters in 2017, according to a report from a court-appointed monitor.
Over 450,000 gallons were discharged in The Bahamas in June of that year alone.
Carnival Corporation in 2016 pleaded guilty to numerous charges stemming from illegally dumping oily bilge water into the ocean between 2005 and 2013, and its systematic coverup of the illegal actions.
The company was fined $40 million by a U.S. court and put on a five-year probation, the conditions of which included the development and implementation of an environmental compliance plan (ECP).
U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz appointed Steven Solow to monitor Carnival Corporation during its probation.
Solow’s first annual report, covering the findings from the first year of the ECP’s implementation, was made public by Seitz last week.
“Approximately 1,270 cubic meters of treated black water and 22 cubic meters of comminuted food waste were discharged inside Bahamian waters in violation of MARPOL and company procedures between June 4, 2017, and June 16, 2017,” the report said in reference to an incident on the Carnival Elation ship.
Referring to an incident on the Carnival Freedom, the report added, “Approximately 467 cubic meters of treated black water/sewage and 6.2 cubic meters of comminuted food waste was discharged inside Bahamian archipelagic baselines between June 13, 2017, and June 15, 2017, due to misinterpretation of Bahamas baselines.”
One cubic meter is approximately 264 liquid gallons.
The report noted that both incidents were attributed to “a failure to develop and follow effective voyage plans”.
Carnival Corporation Chief Communications Officer and Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications Roger Frizzell told The Nassau Guardian yesterday that these instances represent a very small percentage of the cruise line’s discharges.
“Ninety-nine point seven percent of the time, they recorded discharges to be completely within policy. The 0.3 percent that has not been within policy, has been largely due to archipelagic zones and other issues that we are continuing to improve upon,” Frizzell said.
In a statement sent to The Guardian yesterday, Carnival Corporation assured its commitment to addressing the issues highlighted in the report.
“These issues were unacceptable failures in our processes that were not in accordance with our policies and procedures, and do not reflect the culture we have built at Carnival Corporation and across our nine cruise line brands,” it said.
It added, “We take the issues raised very seriously and we are vigorously addressing those issues.
“We remain deeply committed to meeting all expectations under the ECP and demonstrating our dedication to environmental leadership.”
According to Solow’s report, in two separate incidents, which occurred between June 2 and June 3, 2017, the Carnival Ecstasy and the Carnival Conquest discharged food waste and treated black water within 12 nautical miles of Bahamas archipelagic baselines on eight occasions.
Again on June 15, 2017, several ships improperly discharged comminuted food waste and treated black water within the 12 mile baseline.
The ships included Carnival Liberty, Carnival Magic, Carnival Vista and Carnival Conquest.
On July 15, 2017, “treated black water was potentially discharged” from the Carnival Splendor inside the Bahamian baseline due to the accidental opening of an overboard discharge valve.
The report said on July 23, 2017, the Carnival Vista, while sailing through the Old Bahama Channel, “accidentally discharged” four cubic meters of comminuted food waste and 100 cubic meters of treated black water.
“Crew was aware of baseline issue, properly planned and briefed multiple times,” the report said.
It added, “When the officer on watch realized the mistake, he immediately stopped all discharge operations and self-reported…This incident was caused by a separate human error and not a fundamental misunderstanding of the baseline restrictions.”
On October 21, 2017, the Carnival Conquest “unintentionally discharged 50 cubic meters of treated sewage and five cubic meters of comminuted food waste” in Bahamian waters.
The report noted that on November 26, 2017 after departing Nassau, while discharging wastewater from sinks, showers, laundry and the kitchen, 15 to 20 cubic meters of black water was accidentally discharged by the Carnival Victory.
“The Port Authority of Nassau and the ship’s Flag Administration were notified,” the report said.
The cruise line in October 2017 also burned heavy fuel oil (HFO) in an emission control area (ECA) in Bahamian waters after the exhaust gas cleaning systems (ECGS) on the Carnival Ecstasy shut down while underway to Princess Cay off Eleuthera.
“The ship burned HFO for three hours and 24 minutes without the EGCS, resulting in a violation of the North American ECA requirements and MARPOL Annex VI,” the report said.
“Four alarms related to the EGCS were activated but were not acknowledged due to a lack of situational awareness to call for assistance.
“The engineer officer of the watch stated there were too many alarms sounding at the same time, and he misjudged the importance of the EGCS alarm.”
In his report, Solow said, “While these incidents are concerning, the company’s deeper and more pressing barriers to compliance relate to its larger corporate governance and culture issues.”
It noted that the company’s internal investigations were “critically flawed”.
“There is no consistent, reliable means to investigate incidents or near misses and identify root causes that can lead to meaningful corrective actions,” it said.
The report also cited complex corporate culture, blame culture and the lack of a learning culture as “unresolved barriers” to improvement at Carnival Corporation.
Carnival is slated to develop a new cruise port in Grand Bahama in a project that has been touted as a much-anticipated catalyst for economic growth on the struggling island.
When he announced the development in February, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said it would provide more than 1,000 direct and indirect permanent jobs for Grand Bahama.