Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar yesterday said that new legislation may be necessary in light of reports that Carnival cruise ships dumped nearly half a million gallons of sewage in Bahamian waters in 2017.
“Obviously, we are quite concerned by the allegations that a major cruise line, Carnival, has been dumping waste water into Bahamian waters,” he said.
“It seems as if all this information has come out as a result of a court case in the United States, and it seems as if, not only were they caught initially, but when they agreed to improve the situation, it is alleged that they did not improve that situation, and, so, naturally we are very concerned.”
D’Aguilar added, “…While cruise ships are important to our economy, we don’t want to cause long-term, lasting, negative effects to our environment in our pursuit to get economic enhancement.
“So this whole legal action and this whole process has really opened our eyes to [the fact that] maybe we need to get on board and enact the necessary legislation to ensure that this information is reported, and maybe have some sort of whistleblower clause in there to encourage [reports of] illegal dumping of stuff.”
Carnival Corporation was fined $40 million and put on a five-year probation by a U.S. court in 2016 after pleading 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.
U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz appointed Steven Solow to monitor Carnival Corporation during its probation.
Solow’s first annual report, which was made public by Seitz last week, covered the findings from the first year of the implementation of an environmental compliance plan, and found that the company’s ships illegally discharged nearly 500,000 gallons of treated sewage in Bahamian waters, among numerous other environmental violations that happened across the globe.
D’Aguilar said he has already spoken with Minister of the Environment and Housing Romauld Ferreira on the matter to determine whether there is a basis for further investigation and corrective action.
However, he acknowledged that the matter is difficult to police.
“What I would be interested to find out…especially if these boats are flagged Bahamian, is to determine how this information was gathered,” he said.
“If a ship is out there on the high seas and it gets up to stuff, you know, I don’t think we have the mechanism by which to discover that.”
He added, “I don’t think that we have that intelligence.”
The minister continued, “If there is no requirement for them to on their own be honest and report them to the American authorities, then we’re the small fish, they are certainly not going to report them to us.
“So, maybe that’s something that we look at.”
Asked how he thinks the report will impact The Bahamas’ relationship with Carnival Corporation, D’Aguilar said he was unsure, as he said he had yet to speak with the company.
“I think they have some questions to answer, certainly, and we haven’t heard their side of the story, and we haven’t spoken to them yet,” he said.
“I have certainly reached out to them…and there is a phone call that is pending.
“You have to see what they have to say and then go forward from there.”
“And certainly, I’m sure that this entire process has, hopefully, caused them to pay that much more attention to this type of illegal dumping and to mitigate it as much as possible.”
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.
Education: Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish