The Zaandam, a Holland America cruise ship making many stops in Bar Harbor this season, is owned by a company that last week was ordered to pay a $20-million criminal penalty after allegedly dumping contaminated waste in the ocean and falsifying records ISLANDER PHOTO BY SHAYLA WHITE

Cruise ship company pleads guilty to illegal dumping charges

MIAMI, Fla. — One of the cruise ship companies whose ships regularly visit Bar Harbor was ordered in federal court last week to pay a $20-million criminal penalty after dumping contaminated waste in the ocean and intentionally covering up those actions.

Princess Cruise Lines and its parent company Carnival Corp. were ordered to pay the penalty after admitting to violations of probation in a 2017 case, in which Carnival had already paid $40 million. Carnival Cruise Lines will also be subject to three more years of probation and enhanced supervision.

The cruise ship company was convicted and sentenced in April 2017, after pleading guilty to felony charges stemming from its deliberate dumping of oil-contaminated waste from the vessel Caribbean Princess off the coast of England in 2013, and intentional acts to cover it up.

The company admitted to six probation violations since 2017, including dumping gray water into Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park, dumping plastic waste in Bahamian waters, and falsifying records ahead of court-ordered audits.

“We expect Carnival to carefully abide by all regulations moving forward and are ready to welcome them to Maine as scheduled this season,” CruiseMaine Executive Director Sarah Flink said. “Maine’s coastline is one of our greatest resources and as an advocate for our coastal communities, we will continue to work with our cruise line partners to make sure it stays safe and clean.”

Carnival owns nine cruise brands, including Princess, Holland America, and P & O Cruises, all of which have ships that regularly visit Bar Harbor.

According to the 2019 cruise ship schedule, Carnival-owned cruise ships, with passenger capacities ranging from 450 to 3,560 are scheduled to make 45 visits to Bar Harbor this season.

Prosecutors advised the court that the discharge of plastic waste was an example of a more widespread problem, identified by the external audits, in failing to segregate plastic and non-food garbage from waste thrown overboard from numerous cruise ships.

Under the terms of last week’s settlement, Carnival will pay a $20 million criminal penalty, restructure the company’s corporate compliance efforts, and pay for 15 additional independent audits per year conducted by a court-appointed third-party auditor.

The company is also required to make changes in how they use and dispose of plastic and other non-food waste, to address the problem of multiple vessels discharging plastic mixed with other garbage.

“This is a top priority for the company,” Roger Frizzell, Carnival’s chief communications officer, told the Islander. “We are appointing a Chief Compliance Officer who will have full authority over the company’s compliance efforts.”

Other oversight changes include starting a new Executive Compliance Committee, hiring an outside consultant, and “adding a board member with extensive compliance experience and background.”

To avoid illegal dumping of plastic mixed with other garbage, the company is working to “reduce the purchase and consumption of single use plastic items across the fleet by 50 percent by the end of 2021,” Frizzell said.

According to a letter issued to guests of the Carnival Cruise Line, reduction of plastic involves eliminating single-serving packaged items such as butter, condiments, salad dressing, cereal boxes, and sugar; and decorative items such as stir sticks, olive picks and umbrellas.

Disposable straws and wooden coffee stirrers will be eliminated, to be replaced with edible straws and stainless reusable stirrers. Drinks will be served in reusable cups or paper cups with paper lids, in the case of hot to-go drinks. “Plastic water bottles are currently recycled,” the letter concludes, “but we are exploring various alternatives that could replace plastic water bottles in the future.”

Becky Pritchard
Former Islander reporter Becky Pritchard covered the town of Bar Harbor and was a park ranger in Acadia for six seasons.
Becky Pritchard

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