MIAMI — A federal judge Wednesday threatened to stop Carnival Corporation from docking its ships at U.S. ports temporarily as punishment for possibly violating probation but said she would make a decision at a hearing scheduled for June.
Carnival has been on probation for the last two years as part of a $40 million settlement for illegally dumping oil into the ocean from its Princess Cruises ships for eight years and lying about the scheme to U.S. authorities. While on probation, according to court filings, Carnival Corp. and its subsidiary cruise lines have sought to avoid unfavorable findings by preparing ships in advance of court-ordered audits, falsified records, dumped plastic garbage into the ocean and illegally discharged gray water into Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska. The company also has tried to lobby the U.S. Coast Guard through a back channel to change the terms of the settlement, prosecutors allege. The company has acknowledged these incidents.
In an statement issued following Wednesday’s hearing in front of U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz, Carnival Corp.’s Chief Communications Officer Roger Frizzell said, “It appears there were some mischaracterizations made by others to the court. We intend to fully address the issues raised at today’s court conference.
“Our environmental responsibility has been and continues to be a top priority for the company. Our aspiration is to leave the places we touch even better than when we first arrived. This is only in the best interest of our guests, our company and the oceans upon which we travel.”
On Wednesday, Seitz scolded the Miami-based cruise conglomerate’s chairman, Micky Arison, and president, Donald Arnold, neither of whom were present.
“The people at the top are treating this as a gnat,” Seitz said.
Seitz requested that Arison, Donald and other executives attend the June hearing to answer questions.
The five-year probation period that began in April 2017 requires a third-party auditor to inspect ships belonging to Carnival and its subsidiaries.
According to court filings, during 2017, Carnival had a program in place to prepare for court-ordered audits to avoid any negative findings by the independent court-appointed monitor. Seitz ordered Carnival to stop the practice in December 2017, and the company said it stopped at that time. But federal prosecutors allege Carnival continued the practice into 2018.
The company owns nine cruise brands and 102 ships.