Carnival Corporation, one of the biggest cruise companies in the world, will pay a $20 million settlement after Princess Cruises, its subsidiary, pleaded guilty to improper waste disposal, Business Insider reported.
According to a court filing on Monday, the Miami-based company released enormous amounts of food and plastic waste into the ocean, which violated the terms of a previous settlement the company had agreed to following similar transgressions. Princess Cruises also failed to maintain accurate waste disposal records and only addressed environmental-compliance issues on its ships in the immediate lead up to third-party inspections, court documents show.
Carnival is now required to deliver the $20 million settlement within seven days.
On top of the large fee, Carnival’s ships will be required to undergo additional inspections. The company must also reduce the number of single-use plastic items on its vessels, create a team to improve waste management, and dedicate more resources to meeting the environmental standards it agreed to in its settlement.
If the deadlines and compliance measures are not met, the company will be subject to additional penalties ranging between $1 million and $10 million per day.
"Today's ruling was a betrayal of the public trust and a continuation of the weak enforcement that has allowed Carnival Corporation to continue to profit by selling the environment to its passengers while its cruise ships contribute to the destruction of the fragile ecosystems they visit," Kendra Ulrich, a senior shipping campaigner at advocacy organization Stand.earth, said in a statement.
This is not the first time that the company has faced legal scrutiny. In 2016, Princess Cruises was ordered to pay $40 million — the largest criminal penalty for intentionally polluting waters from a vessel — after it was accused of illegally discharging oil into the ocean and creating false records to show legitimate discharge. According to a the United States Department of Justice, the discharge involved approximately 4,227 gallons of liquid disposal.
Since then Carnival has been on probation, during which third-party inspections are mandated. According to the environmental inspector in charge of these visits, Carnival committed over 800 more violations between April 2017 and April 2018.
About 70% of our planet is covered by water, which supports most life on Earth. Yet water bodies are becoming contaminated as a result of human activity. Plastic, oil, and industrial waste generated on land are being released into streams, which connect to rivers that join seas and ultimately lead to oceans, if not being released directly into oceans. Seas also absorb a quarter of all man-made emissions, leading to acidification and an inhospitable environment for marine life.
Single-use, non-degradable plastics can continue to exist in the oceans for about a millenium, polluting water bodies, endangaring marine creatures and harming animals that ingest them. On top of that, oil spills from vessels like those in Carnival's massive fleets can linger in oceans for decades causing irreversible damage.
According to NPR, US District Judge Patricia Seitz grew increasingly frustrated over the company’s continued environmental violations during the course of the recent case.
"You not only work for employees and shareholders. You are a steward of the environment," she told Carnival CEO Arnold Donald at the hearing. "The environment needs to be a core value, and I hope and pray it becomes your daily anthem."