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A federal judge’s June decision could affect almost half of Ketchikan’s cruise ship season of about 630,000 potential passengers in 2019.
U.S. District Court Judge Patricia Seitz, who appears to be fed up with Carnival Corp., is threatening to prevent the cruise company from docking any of its ships at U.S. ports — at least temporarily. How long “temporarily” would be is unknown.
Carnival owns nine brands, four of which dock in Ketchikan and other parts of Southeast. They include Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Seabourn.
Carnival is the world’s largest cruise company. With approximately 11.5 million guests, according to its website, it controls 50% of the global cruise market. It had revenue of $16.4 billion in 2016, a 40% increase over 2015.
Carnival is before the judge for possibly violating probation. It has been on probation for two years as part of a $40 million settlement in a case in which it was accused of illegally dumping oil into the ocean from its Princess Cruises ships for eight years, then lying about it.
New court filings state that while on probation Carnival and its ships discharged 26,000 gallons of gray water into Glacier Bay National Park in September 2018. The filings include allegations of falsifying records and unloading plastic garbage into the water.
Before a hearing on the charges Wednesday in Seitz’ courtroom, Carnival issued a statement saying the situation was being mischaracterized. It essentially saluted the environmental flag and pointed out that it was in the best interest of its guests, the company and the oceans to leave the places it takes customers better than when it arrived.
The president and chairman of Carnival didn’t show up at the Wednesday court hearing, but the judge scolded them nonetheless.
“The people at the top are treating this as a gnat,” Seitz said. “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 allegations of violating the five-year probation come as a result of audits being conducted by third-party inspectors.
The judge has asked that top Carnival executives attend the June hearing, pointing out that the 2017 $40 million settlement, which was the largest in history, might not have affected a change in how Carnival conducts business. Her reference to the company as a criminal defendant, “not the first time nor is it the second time,” also is an indication of her view of Carnival.
The mission statement on Carnival’s website states: “Together, we deliver joyful vacation experiences and breakthrough shareholder returns by exceeding guest expectations and leveraging our industry-leading scale.”
In other words, fun and money. Nothing wrong with that. The judge doesn’t think so, either; she took a Carnival cruise. But, she also thinks the law is important, and she’s made it crystal clear that she will go to great lengths to see that it’s upheld — no matter what it costs.
Honest Alaskans agree with her. We take care of our waterways, and we think those who benefit financially from their use should, too.