Carnival’s plan to resume US cruises on Dec. 1 remains on track after ruling

MIAMI — Carnival Corp. is still on track to resume cruises in the U.S. on Dec. 1 after a favorable ruling from a federal judge Oct. 21.

The company, on probation since 2017 after pleading guilty to dumping oil into the ocean for several years, will have to attest to the environmental protection status of each of the company’s cruise ships 30 days before they reenter U.S. waters to restart cruises, according to the order from U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Florida Patricia Seitz.

Carnival Corp. successfully fended off a stricter order proposed by the judge at a hearing on Oct. 23 that would have required ships to get her approval 60 days before reentering U.S. waters — which would have essentially derailed its plans to restart cruises from PortMiami and Port Canaveral on Dec. 1.

For ships returning to U.S. waters before Dec. 31, the company can file its certification up to seven days after returning, Wednesday’s order said.

In June, Carnival Corp. removed all of its ships from U.S. waters, partly due to a disagreement with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about how to best mitigate COVID-19 spread on board. The CDC banned cruises in mid-March amid COVID-19 outbreaks on multiple cruise ships, and their current ban remains in effect until Oct. 31.

Now, as the company brings ships back, CEO Arnold Donald will have to notify the court of the status of each ship’s pollution prevention equipment, spare parts, staffing, voyage planning software, and vetting of shore-side waste vendors, creating an extra hurdle for Carnival Corp. ships to resume cruises. If any of the items are incomplete, Donald will have to provide a plan and timeline for addressing the outstanding problem.

At a hearing last week, Seitz said those five items had been consistent problems for the company over its three years of probation, causing multiple violations of national and international environmental laws. Based on the company’s certification of the status of these items, Seitz said she would determine whether the ships could reenter U.S. waters or not.

The Oct. 21 order does not require the company to get her approval, but says she can order further review if necessary.

“I have tried to make sure we are balancing constantly the interests of the community and the environment in which the company operates and the needs of the defendant,” she said during the Friday hearing.

Roger Frizzell, a spokesperson for the company, said it will be complying with the order going forward.

“We continue to make strong progress on our efforts tied to compliance and environmental protection across the company,” he said in an email. “This will be one more action that supports our goal for continuous improvement in these two critically important areas.”

Carnival Corp. has been on probation since April 2017 after pleading guilty to environmental crimes — dumping oily waste into the ocean for a period of eight years from its Princess Cruises ships — and paying a $40 million fine.

In June 2019, the company pleaded guilty again to violating probation, paid a $20 million fine and agreed to more strict oversight during its remaining years on probation.

10/28/2020 - 9:19am