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Carnival cruises get a wrist slap for dumping raw sewage and plastic waste into the sea

Carnival cruises get a wrist slap for dumping raw sewage and plastic waste into the sea
The Carnival cruise ship Paradise departs from Tampa, Fla., for a trip to Havana. (Monica Herndon / TNS)

There’s something wholly unsatisfying about the $20-million penalty that Carnival Corp. agreed to pay Monday to settle federal charges that its ships continued to trash the ocean even after it was told to stop.

That may seem like a crushing sum to us wage slaves. But to a corporation with $18.9 billion in revenues last year, $20 million must seem like a reasonable cost of doing business. Carnival owns Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line and several other cruise brands that operate around the globe. If you’ve been on a cruise, there’s a good chance the ship was one of Carnival’s.

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Even a $40-million penalty levied against the company in 2016 the first time it was prosecuted for trashing the oceans and lying to regulators about it didn’t have much of an effect on the company’s environmentally unfriendly ways. Crews of Carnival’s ships continued to deliberately release sewage into the ocean, which is gross but not as damaging as the used oil, disposable plastic items and food waste that the ships also expelled into the sea.

By the way, these are not “alleged” offenses. Carnival Chief Executive Arnold Donald stood up in open court Monday and copped to them. He said “the company pleads guilty” six times, according to the Associated Press.

Part of the settlement requires new compliance plans and deadlines and audits and more fines on Carnival if the company doesn’t stop treating the ocean like a giant toilet. Donald said on Monday that the company has plans to fix what he called the “problems,” but I’m skeptical. What incentive do Carnival executives have to undertake what will surely be an expensive and tactically challenging change in on-board practice when they can simply admit to fouling the seas and walk away with no jail time or loss of personal fortune?

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