Smith expresses ‘grave’ concern over Carnival dumping
Fred Smith, QC, yesterday expressed “grave” concern over a recent revelation that Carnival Corporation cruise ships discharged nearly 500,000 gallons of treated sewage into Bahamian waters, asserting that “The Bahamas must police its own waters”.
Smith, a former chairman of environmentalist group Save the Bays, noted that his law firm represents Carnival.
However, he said his comments were not on behalf of the cruse line and noted that “we have not been asked to represent them in relation to the dumping matter or the government’s subsequent investigation”.
“Revelations of the dumping of sewage and food waste by cruise ships within our maritime borders is a clear sign of the urgent need for The Bahamas to police its own waters,” Smith said in a statement.
“We can no longer leave it up to the United States or international bodies to ensure that our environment is protected.
“In order to do this, however, the government must immediately pass a comprehensive environmental protection act applicable to all marine and terrestrial operations, ventures, developments etc. that take place within this jurisdiction. This was a promise made by the FNM while in opposition, which they seem to have conveniently forgotten in the two years since coming to office.”
In 2016, Carnival Corporation 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, and revealed numerous instances of ships improperly discharging sewage and food waste.
“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.
Several environmental groups and activists have expressed outrage with the revelation of Carnival’s dumping.
“While I absolutely share the grave concerns of other environmentalists over the 2017 dumping incidents, I believe it is also important to highlight the appropriacy of the response by the U.S. courts and the opportunity it reveals for The Bahamas in our own efforts to protect the marine environment from pollution and other major environmental pressures,” Smith said.
He called on the government to “immediately pass a comprehensive environmental protection act”.
“Here, we have what I believe is a perfect model for our own legislative regime of cruise ship oversight – continuous monitoring with hefty fines and penalties,” Smith said.
“In fact, if the government had moved swiftly on its promise to pass an environmental protection act, we could have already had our own environmental officers on each and every ship that passes through our waters, funded by the cruise companies, and the $40 million paid by Carnival to the U.S. courts could have been collected into our own special fund for use in environmental protection initiatives.”
Smith said The Bahamas needs to “take hold of the reins when it comes to protecting our own natural resources”.
Education: Goldsmith, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice