Amid calls for the government to hit Carnival with fines for dumping in Bahamian waters, Minister of Transport Renward Wells revealed yesterday that a Norwegian Cruise Lines ship also discharged waste in Bahamian waters.
“We recently learned of similar discharges from a Norwegian Cruise Line vessel, which was voluntarily reported to The Bahamas Maritime Authority Norwegian Cruise Lines,” he said in the House of Assembly.
“Consequently, we are actively in touch with all other major lines that operate vessels within our waters. I wish to report to the Bahamian people the government’s actions regarding such discharges within The Bahamas.”
Wells added, “My ministry is in close contact with the attorney general’s office and with the Ministry of the Environment in this regard. Let me make one thing clear, Mr. Speaker, and in doing so, emphatically say that we will defend our environmental sovereignty. Those who have breached our environmental laws will be made to account.”
An environmental report released on New Year’s Eve outlined several discharges by cruise lines that occurred last year in The Bahamas, including the release of treated sewage by MS Maasdam in March and the release of a considerable amount of rust by carnival sunrise back in September.
Last June, Carnival admitted to six violations of its environmental compliance plan, one of which involved one of its ships dumping plastic and food waste in Bahamian waters.
Only months before, a court-appointed monitor report revealed that its ships also discharged nearly half a million gallons of treated sewage in Bahamian waters.
Wells said the government is taking a hard stance on the matter.
“We advise the cruise ship industry and any international shipping [companies] that anything inside this line constitutes the territorial waters of The Bahamas. We absolutely prohibit any discharges at sea within this boundary, even discharges that are considered safe by other countries.
“We will not permit and we will not tolerate any discharges at sea within the waters of our Commonwealth.”
He added, “We are developing a broad database of potential past discharge locations along major routes. We are running trajectories based on prevailing currents and we are identifying all locations in which environmental measurements and assessments should be carried out.
“Efforts are being made to rapidly assess all the locations in our archipelago and sample and analyze data to determine any remedial actions needed and to ensure absolute safety.”
Wells said the government will “look to the cruise ship industry” to fund the studies and to fund any remediation costs.
He said the Bahamas Maritime Authority is also designating a deputy director, who will be responsible for environmental affairs.