A federal judge will decide whether or not to block Carnival Cruise Lines from temporarily accessing ports in the United States. The ban would include 102 ships from each of Carnival's nine cruise lines, including the Carnival Fantasy which sails from Mobile. The issue goes back a couple of years, when Carnival's Princess Cruise Lines (yes, the one that brought us The Love Boat) was found to have dumped oily water overboard and then lied to US authorities about it. According to the Miami Herald, the company was required to pay a $40 million penalty and received five years probation. Two years in, they're in trouble again for allegedly violating the probation agreement, which requires a third party auditor to inspector Carnival's fleet for compliance with environmental rules.
Court filings claim Carnival has continued to engage in illegal environmental practices and has continued to falsify documentation, so U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz is now considering banning Carnival's fleet entirely from US ports of call. She'll make her decision in June, and she wants the company's top brass to be at that hearing, because in her words: “The people at the top are treating this as a gnat. If I could, I would give all the members of the executive committee a visit to the detention center for a couple of days. It’s amazing how that helps people come to focus on reality.”
The company says that others have mischaracterized them and that their "...environmental responsibility has been and continues to be a top priority for the company." The company says they will fully address the issues raised.
While it seems unlikely that Carnival and its sister companies would be banned from US ports of call, the judge has raised the very real possibility that it could very well happen. If it does, the cruise industry would be rocked and vacation plans interrupted. Carnival is likely to ensure none of that happens, both from a customer service standpoint and because a court order barring their fleet would be a major news story -- even a temporary ban. That's not the kind of bad press they want. So expect Carnival to get this under control while it's still a small story. We'll know soon enough; again, the court hearing is in June.
Read more from the Miami Herald.