Travel Bulletin

Steve Jones

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It was always a topic that appeared to irritate cruise line executives. The impatience tangible. The subject that so irked them was the marine environmen­t. Specifical­ly, questions relating to the impact their mighty vessels had on its health.

Scripted answers invariably followed, earnestly stressing the responsibl­e approach adopted by their respective companies.

Fast forward to recent events, which explain why a healthy dose of cynicism is rarely misplaced and why scrutiny is legitimate and necessary. Carnival Corporatio­n has, yet again, admitted numerous violations which show a flagrant disregard for the environmen­t it purports to cherish.

Six times in a Miami court, chief executive Arnold Donald pleaded guilty to violations perpetrate­d by ships under his stewardshi­p. They included deliberate­ly dumping plastic in the Bahamas, falsifying environmen­tal training records and sending in teams ahead of scheduled inspection­s to ensure no violations were uncovered. Carnival also acknowledg­ed it dumped grey water in prohibited areas, Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park among them.

Even more concerning, these latest abuses occurred in the early stages of a five-year probation, imposed after a similar court appearance in 2016. On that occasion, Princess, one of Carnival’s brands, admitted to polluting the seas with oil-contaminat­ed waste, and covering it up.

The judge now overseeing the case described the persistent indiscreti­ons as “incredible”. How right she is. It is lamentable.

All in, Carnival has been fined US$80M. In 2018 the company generated revenue of just shy of $19b. Unsurprisi­ngly, a chorus of protests were led by lobby groups, no doubt sick and tired at the persistent nature of Carnival’s misdemeano­urs. There was also frustratio­n at a failure to follow through on judicial threats to ban ships from US ports.

The court’s “weak enforcemen­t”, one watchdog complained, has allowed Carnival to profit from the environmen­t while contributi­ng to its destructio­n. It’s hard to disagree. Donald, reminded by the judge he was a steward of the environmen­t and not just beholden to shareholde­rs, told the court he took responsibi­lity and “sincerely regrets these mistakes”. Furthermor­e, he was “personally committed” to improving compliance. That’s all very well. But given Carnival’s history of offending, it all sounds so hollow, even if a report from an independen­t monitor did accept improvemen­ts had been made. Even harder to swallow was the company’s extraordin­ary statement claiming it “remained committed to environmen­tal excellence” and aspired to “leave the places we touch even better than when we arrived”.

Such words are meaningles­s without the actions to back them up. Whether it will start doing so remains a matter of conjecture. If you have any thoughts, email steve.jones@travelbull­etin.com.au.

Carnival Corporatio­n has... admitted numerous violations which show a flagrant disregard for the environmen­t it purports to cherish

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