Judge in ocean pollution case won’t make it easy for Carnival to resume cruise operations

In this Monday, March 9, 2020 photo, the Carnival Liberty leaves Port Canaveral, Fla. Carnival Cruise Line announced the suspension of all of their cruises in North America through April 9, 2020, in response to the coronavirus threat. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP) (Orlando Sentinel)

MIAMI – Since Carnival Corp. is on probation over an environmental crimes case, a U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Florida announced Friday that she is not going to make it easy for Carnival Corp. to resume cruise operations in the U.S.

Carnival Corp. has been on probation for about three years after pleading guilty to 2016 felony charges stemming from its deliberate dumping of oil-contaminated waste from one of its vessels and intentional acts to cover it up.

Judge Patricia A. Seitz said the cruise line giant has had continuous compliance issues. The alleged violations include dumping sewage and plastic. The company with nine brands and more than 100 cruise ships has also been accused of failing to establish an effective internal investigations operation.

“We strive to be perfect,” Chairman Micky Arison told Seitz during a hearing late last year. “We won’t ever be perfect, but we are going to work toward that.”

In 2002, prosecutors accused Carnival of falsifying records while ships discharged oily waste into the sea from 1996 through 2001. The company has paid about $60 million in fines over the initial 2012-13 violations and a 2019 probation violation.

Seitz said she plans to order the Miami-based company to certify each ship’s compliance with environmental laws. When she issues the order, Carnival will have to notify her 60 days before resuming operations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s No Sail Order for cruise ships is in effect through Oct. 31. Carnival announced on Oct. 12 that cruises scheduled for December from Port Miami and Port Canaveral remain in place “while Carnival evaluates options.”

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