By Theresa Pinto, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald, in an unprecedented move on Monday, June 3rd, plead guilty to violations of probation for an environmental criminal conviction stemming back to 2016.
Donald, along with sixteen other Carnival executives of the Doral, Florida-based company, appeared in person before U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz, to agree to the $20 million settlement on the violations.
In 2016, Carnival was found guilty of violating U.S. environmental laws on dumping of oily waste in the Arctic. But the company has a long history of environmental crimes dating back to 1993 when Princess Cruises, purchased by Carnival in 2007, was caught throwing plastic bags of garbage directly into the ocean. This is the company’s third criminal conviction since 1998.
It is not usual for CEOs of large corporations to appear in court and personally plead guilty to criminal charges, but Seitz insisted. Arnold, along with the other high-level executives, stood before Seitz Monday morning as she committed them to preserving the environment and urged them to make preservation “a living, breathing core value.”
But she recognized the company’s hesitancy, continuing, “[S]omebody can only change if they want to change, but I’m here to assist if they don’t.” This time, the company was charged with falsifying records, communicating with the Coast Guard through illegal channels, dumping of plastic waste in the Bahamas, and an overall failure to comply with environmental regulations while covering it up.
Carnival is currently the largest cruise company in the world, with over a hundred ships in their line and boasting profits of $3.2 billion last year. But they were also fined the largest amount ever for the environmental criminal conviction back in 2016, with a hefty $40 million penalty then.
On top of the devastating research recently published by Miami Waterkeeper that shows over a half million corals were killed during the recent dredging at Port Miami by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Carnival’s disregard for environmental laws designed to protect the oceans is engendering a substantially detrimental environmental impact in the area.
According to the trade publication Cruise Blog, Carnival also on Monday “announced sweeping changes to its fleet that are aimed at protecting the environmental impact of its ships” with a new environmental policy that includes all the standard greening measures of the hospitality industry, such as procuring less individually packaged servings and using less plastic items.
However, environmentalists charge Carnival with greenwashing and decry the $20 million fine is not large enough. Judge Seitz leveled the same criticism and had tough words for the executives of Carnival, “I am contemplating that if there is a future violation […] that there should be either penal or personal financial consequences.”
The court imposed more stringent court monitoring for the remaining three years of probation as well and will officially hand the case off to District Judge Ursula Ungaro in the fall, who was also present on Monday.
Ungaro expressed disbelief that after more than twenty years, they were still discussing the dumping of waste in the ocean.