For eight years, Carnival Cruise Line's ships systematically dumped waste into the ocean and lied about it to regulators. After being convicted of seven felony charges related to the conspiracy, the company in 2016 agreed to a record fine of $40 million and five years of probation.
Almost immediately, it went back to polluting the ocean and breaking environmental laws: From April 2017 to April 2018, Carnival discharged more than 500,000 gallons of treated sewage, dumped 11,000 gallons of food waste, and burned fuel oil in protected areas 19 times, according to a court-appointed monitor.
Inside a Miami federal courtroom this afternoon, U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz will review a settlement the company reached with prosecutors for its probation violation. She's requested that Carnival Corporation Chairman Micky Arison and President Arnold Donald attend. Also planning to be there: activists angered by the repeated flouting of environmental law by the world's largest cruise company.
"This is a once-in-a-decade opportunity to hold the criminal cruise ship giant accountable and confront Carnival’s executive management," the environmental group Stand.earth says.
In the runup to today's hearing, several residents of the Bahamas and Alaska, where Carnival dumped waste and burned fuel, asked the judge to recognize them as victims. Environmental groups sent Judge Seitz letters asking for Carnival to be punished, while Alaska Gov. Michael Dunleavy and South Florida Democratic Congresswoman Frederica Wilson sent letters supporting the company.
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Details of the settlement, which was reached late last month, have not been made public. Judge Seitz previously threatened to bar Carnival's ships from docking at U.S. ports.
In an email about the hearing and its planned protest, Stand.earth called it a "BIG DAY for our oceans, and for communities on the frontline of cruise ship pollution." The group, which filed the motion to have residents recognized as victims, praised Seitz as "AMAZING!"
"We will show our support for our lawyer and the judge and hold the biggest cruise ship company in the world accountable for its crimes by amplifying the voices of the people most directly affected... the frontline communities," its email said.
The hearing is set for 2 p.m. at the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. United States Courthouse in downtown Miami.