Emerald Princess docked at San Pedro

The Princess Cruise Line ship Emerald Princess is docked at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro on Thursday, Apr. 18, 2019. The ship arrived Thursday morning before heading out on a cruise through the Panama Canal and then to Ft. Lauderdale. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

A $20 million settlement will allow Carnival Corp. cruise lines, including the locally popular Princess cruises, to continue docking at U.S. ports.

The deal over environmental violations, to which Carnival pleaded guilty, was reached last week, averting a U.S. port blockage a federal judge threatened to impose in April.

The company has already been on probation for two years — with another three to go — as part of a previous $40 million settlement that stemmed from allegations it illegally dumped oil into the ocean from its Princess Cruises ships. That practice went on for eight years.

While on probation, according to court filings, Carnival and its subsidiary cruise lines used falsified records, dumped plastic garbage in the ocean and discharged gray water into Glacier Bay National Park, in Alaska.

A company spokesman, Roger Frizzell, said in an email Monday, June 10, that addressing any wrongdoing is a top priority.

U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz approved the agreement after Carnival CEO Arnold Donald admitted the company’s responsibility for probation violations during a hearing on June 3.

Steitz said in April that she would go so far as to consider blocking the cruise line from docking in the U.S. The settlement appears to have taken that off the table.

Carnival has a significant presence in both the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, where cruise season generally runs from September to May.

Both ports watched the case closely, as did local businesses that benefit from the influx of passengers and crew. The Port of Los Angeles declined to comment; the Port of Long Beach did not return requests for comment.

“We’re very pleased it’s not going to affect any ship sailings,” said Scott Gray of Visit San Pedro

He questioned, however, how much of an impact a $20 million fine would have on a company the size of Carnival.

“We have to trust that Princess and the Carnival brand will live up to their promises,” he said.

Under the settlement, Carnival promised there will be additional audits to check for violations, a restructuring of the company’s compliance and training programs, a better system for reporting environmental violations to state and federal agencies, and improved waste management practices.

“The company pleads guilty,” Arnold said during the hearing, in a Miami courtroom. “We acknowledge the shortcomings. I am here today to formulate a plan to fix them.”

The settlement created deadlines of Sept. 13 and Oct. 9 for Carnival to develop an improved compliance plan.

The company, according to Frizzell, already is moving forward on:

  • Appointing a chief compliance officer who will have full authority over the company’s compliance efforts.
  • Creating an executive compliance committee
  • Engaging an outside consultant to advise on the best options for improving the compliance program
  • Designing and implementing procedures to reduce the purchase and consumption of single-use plastic items across the fleet by 50% by the end of 2021
  • Designing strategies to reduce the total weight of food waste the company creates by 10% by the end of 2021.

In an email to Carnival customers, the company said it has invested “hundreds of millions of dollars in new technology, equipment and training,” adding that the company had “made tremendous progress in reducing emissions, fuel consumption, water and energy usage.”

Associated Press contributed to this article.

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