U.S. Markets closed

Carnival Cruise Ships Could Be Temporarily Blocked From Docking in the US

Carnival Cruise Ship

A federal judge has threatened to temporarily stop Carnival Corp. ships from docking at U.S. ports for a possible probation violation.

Carnival has been on probation since 2017 as part of a $40 million settlement, according to The Miami Herald. Princess Cruises, owned by Carnival, was charged by federal prosecutors with seven felonies, stemming from a years-long investigation that revealed ships were illegally dumping oil into the ocean and falsifying their logs to hide it from authorities. The U.S. Department of Justice said it was the largest fine ever imposed for vessel pollution crimes.

Federal prosecutors say Carnival has since violated that probation. According to court filings, Carnival and its subsidiary cruise lines have dumped both gray water into Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska and garbage into the ocean. The company has falsified records and prepared ships in advance of court-ordered audits to circumvent unfavorable findings. Carnival has also attempted lobbying the U.S. Coast Guard through a back channel to change the terms of the settlement, prosecutors say.

The company has acknowledged these incidents in court filings.

U.S. District Senior Judge Patricia Seitz of the Southern District of Florida had ordered the company to cease its court-ordered audit preparation program in December 2017, and Carnival said it stopped at that time. Prosecutors allege the company continued the practice well into 2018, citing internal emails that discussed how to prepare for the audits.

During a Wednesday hearing, Seitz said she will make a decision in June about revoking Carnival's probation and punishing the company by preventing its ships from docking in U.S. ports. She also said she wanted Carnival chairman Mickey Arison and president Donald Arnold to be at that hearing. Both were absent on Wednesday.

“The people at the top are treating this as a gnat,” the judge said. “If I could, I would give all the members of the executive committee a visit to the detention center for a couple of days. It’s amazing how that helps people come to focus on reality.”

After the Wednesday hearing, Carnival chief communications officer Roger Frizzell delivered a statement in which he lamented "some mischaracterizations made by others to the court. We intend to fully address the issues raised at today’s court conference."

"Our environmental responsibility has been and continues to be a top priority for the company," Frizzell said. "Our aspiration is to leave the places we touch even better than when we first arrived. This is only in the best interest of our guests, our company and the oceans upon which we travel."