10 times Carnival has come under fire for skirting environmental regulations

  • Carnival Corporation has paid millions of dollars in fines over the years for violating environmental regulations.
  • Carnival is the parent company of major cruise lines like Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, P&O Cruises, and Holland America.
  • Those cruise lines have all come under scrutiny over pollution since the 1990s.
  • “We fully recognise past mistakes and transgressions and have dedicated our leadership, our focus and our resources to continuously improve every day, every week and every year as a critical component of our company’s mission and long-term goals,” a Carnival spokesperson told Business Insider.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The cruise industry doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to minimising its impact on the environment.

In a 2019 report card for the cruise industry’s environmental practices, the environmental-advocacy group Friends of the Earth gave all but one of the 16 cruise lines it evaluated a grade of C- or lower. Every brand owned by Carnival Corp., the world’s biggest cruise company, received an “F” after the company was fined $US20 million for violating a probation agreement with the US government.

Ross Klein, a professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland who studies the cruise industry, runs a website that lists the fines cruise lines have received related to their environmental practices. While Carnival brands appear on that list more often than cruise lines run by other companies, it’s difficult to tell if Carnival brands commit more environmental violations than their competitors, Klein told Business Insider.

Many of the listed violations took place in Alaska, which has a robust system to monitor the discharges cruise ships make, Klein said in an email, and Carnival brands account for a significant portion of the Alaskan cruise market.

“That aside, as Carnival is presently under probation and the compliance reports are dismal, it is difficult to imagine that the other companies don’t behave much the same,” Klein said. “It is just that they are not being monitored.”

A Carnival spokesperson told Business Insider it has acknowledged its missteps and is working to correct them.

“We fully recognise past mistakes and transgressions and have dedicated our leadership, our focus and our resources to continuously improve every day, every week and every year as a critical component of our company’s mission and long-term goals,” the Carnival spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said that the company has recently created the position of the chief compliance and ethics officer. Peter Anderson currently serves in that capacity, across all Carnival brands. Anderson is also working with the company’s court appointed monitor “to provide additional oversight.”

“Previously these functions were organised as part of several different organisations within the company, including health, environment, safety, security and legal groups, now all connected directly to Peter,” the spokesperson said. “As part of his role, Peter is working closely with all our brands, not only key compliance and performance initiatives, but also on broader efforts around company culture tied to our crew members, ship officers and the entire workforce.”

Carnival’s spokesperson also said that the brand is making progress on a number of environmentally friendly initiatives, such as “dramatically reducing single-use plastics on board,” “reducing food waste,” working with “recognised environmentalists such as Jean-Michel Cousteau,” and utilising “electrical shore power systems” and other technology to “lower our overall carbon footprint around the world.” So far, the representative said Carnival has lowered its carbon footprint rate by 25%, and is striving to lower the rate to 40% by 2030. “For our company and each of our brands, our top priorities are safety, environmental compliance and protecting the environment,” the spokesperson said.

Here are 10 times one of the company’s cruise lines has run into trouble with regulators over environmental issues.

Do you work for Princess Cruises or another Carnival Corp. cruise line? Do you have an opinion about how the company has handled coronavirus? Contact these reporters at [email protected] or [email protected]. You can also reach out to Mark on Signal at 646-768-4712 or email his encrypted address at [email protected].

Princess illegally dumped oil into the ocean and covered it up from 2005 to 2013

Kate Munsch/Reuters

In 2016, Princess Cruises was ordered to pay $US40 million after pleading guilty to illegally releasing oil into the ocean and deliberately hiding the practice. Carnival Corp. was then placed on a five-year probation by the US government, during which it must allow a third-party inspector to examine its ships.

“We are extremely disappointed about the inexcusable actions of our employees who violated our policies and environmental law when they bypassed our bilge water treatment system and discharged untreated bilge water into the ocean,” Princess told The Washington Post at the time.

A Carnival spokesperson told Business Insider that Princess Cruises’ five-year environmental compliance plan was “not only implemented with Princess Cruises, but also with our other brands.”

“Since the initial issues that led to the ECP were identified in 2013, this particular issue with the oily water separator has not occurred since based on many proactive actions put into place by Princess,” a Carnival spokesperson told Business Insider. “This is clearly work in progress and a top priority for everyone in each of our brands, but we are making important progress.”

Carnival Corp. dumped food waste and plastic into the ocean and disobeyed inspection rules in 2017 and 2018

Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters

Carnival Corp. was fined $US20 million last year after Princess Cruises admitted to violating the terms of its probation stemming from its improper waste disposal.

An environmental-compliance inspector found Carnival had released food waste and plastic into the ocean, failed to accurately record waste disposals, created false training records, and secretly examined ships to fix environmental-compliance issues before third-party inspections without reporting its findings to the inspectors.

“These issues were unacceptable failures in our processes that were not in accordance with our policies and procedures, and do not reflect the culture we have built at Carnival Corporation and across our nine cruise line brands,” a Carnival representative told Business Insider after the violations were reported by The Miami Herald. “We have been taking steps to address the improvement areas mentioned in the report, and to build on the positive progress noted by the court-appointed monitor to make sure we are in full compliance moving forward.”

P&O released grey water and food waste into a coral reef in 2018

Joel Estay/Reuters

P&O Cruises’ Pacific Explorer ship dumped 59,400 pounds of grey water (which refers to waste generated from sinks, kitchen appliances, and other sources that doesn’t include faecal matter) and food waste into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in 2018, the Australian government found.

The cruise line told The Guardian in 2018 that the ship had done so accidentally.

Carnival violated Alaska’s air-pollution rules in and before 2015

Joe Skipper/Reuters

Carnival Corp. paid what it characterised as a small fine to the state of Alaska after it and other cruise lines violated the state’s air-pollution rules in and before 2015.

The company said in its 2016 annual report that it had started an internal investigation into the issue.

Princess released pool water into a national park in 2011

Drone Base/Reuters

Princess received a $US20,000 fine in 2013 after its Golden Princess ship released over 66,000 gallons of water from its pools into Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve in 2011.

“We sincerely regret the accidental discharge of swimming pool water that occurred in 2011, and subsequently we took measures to prevent this from happening again,” Princess told Cruise Critic at the time.

Holland America pleaded guilty to dumping sewage in Alaska in 2004

Reuters / Stringer

In 2004, Holland America copped to polluting Alaskan waters in court.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s web archives, the cruise line was charged with “releasing sewage into harbours” in Alaska. Holland America paid out over $US2 million for the violations, split between the state of Alaska, the National Forest Foundation, the federal government, and an environmental compliance program.

Carnival had to pay $US18 million in 2002 after confessing to a pollution-related cover-up

Daniel Kramer/Reuters

Carnival Corp. pleaded guilty to illegally dumping oily water in the ocean in 2000.

But the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that there was more to the case than just pollution. The cruise industry giant also admitted to “falsifying log books that are supposed to record all discharges for later review by the U.S. Coast Guard,” the Florida newspaper reported.

Carnival Corp. was ordered to shell out a $US18 million fine.

Princess Cruises was slapped with a $US110,000 pollution fee in 2000 …

Kate Munsch/Reuters

According to The Deseret News, Princess Cruises was hit with a $US110,000 fee by the Environmental Protection Agency over smokestack emissions standards violations in 2000.

… as was its sister line, Carnival Cruise Lines


According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s web archives, Carnival Cruise Lines was fined $US55,000 for violating Alaska’s clean air laws in 2000.

Along with Princess Cruises and Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America was also issued a notice of violation.

Holland America was ordered to pay $US2 million for polluting Alaskan waters

Oswaldo Rivas/Reuters

The United States Justice Department took the Holland America cruise line to court in 1998 pollution case. A cruise line whistleblower had alerted federal authorities that the cruise line was dumping oily bilge water in the ocean off Alaska. Holland America ended up being ordered to pay $US2 million in fines and restitution.

That’s not all

Princess CruisesPrincess Cruises’ Ruby Princess ship.

You can read Klein’s full list here.

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