Speaking with reporters ahead of a Cabinet meeting yesterday, Bethel stressed that the, “the protection of the integrity of our environment is of critical importance and will be dealt with with appropriate seriousness by the government”.
Last week the Court Appointed Monitor (CAM) in the criminal environmental case pending against Carnival Corporation filed a 100 page report outlining numerous ongoing environmental violations committed by cruise line and several of its brands over the last 90 days.
Those violations include air emissions; discharges to the sea, including Advanced Air Quality System washwater, ballast water, black water (sewage), chemicals, food waste, grey water, oil, recreational (e.g., pool/Jacuzzi) water, and solid items/garbage (including plastics); pollution prevention equipment maintenance and operation; and record keeping, including alleged training record falsification; unauthorized modification of a logbook with randomly adjusted numbers; multiple instances of missing or inadvertently destroyed logbooks; and errors and discrepancies discovered in log books and records.
Last year it was reported that Carnival Corporation had reached a settlement with US federal prosecutors that would see it pay $20 million in fines for violating terms of its probation.
The company admitted to six violations of its Environmental Compliance Plan (ECP), one of which involves having its ship, Carnival Elation, discharge plastic mixed with food waste in Bahamian waters on December 16, 2018 in violation of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL).
Other violations include falsifying records, communicating with the US Coast Guard through a back channel, failing to give enough authority to the company’s environmental compliance officer and rushing to clean up ships ahead of visits by a court-appointed monitor.
Bethel said: “The protection of the environment is a matter of critical importance not only to the government but to people of The Bahamas. Recently we passed the most modern environment protection legislation around, a part of which allows for damages for historic pollution. All I can say is I was surprised to see the story in the paper today and we will be having discussions firstly with the Bahamas Maritime Authority and subsequently with all the parties that may be involved and we will see where we will go from there.”
He added: “Certainly, steps will be taken by the government under the environmental protection laws that we have, to seek recompense, compensation, the assessment of any damages. Everything depends on the level of damages. There is also the fundamental principle that the cruise lines, all of them know full well that there is to be no dumping within the archipelagic baseline water so the The Bahamas, period. That is a well known principle of law. They are never supposed to be dumping within our archipelagic baseline; that means within the territorial waters of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.”
He added, “At the end fo the day we all share an interest in preserving the pristine environment of our country. That is something that is marketable by the cruise lines, marketable by The Bahamas and enjoyed by both the Bahamian people and visitors to this country. The protection of the integrity of our environment is of critical importance and will be dealt with with appropriate seriousness by the government.”
Bethel said that government must first ascertain the facts over the latest infractions.
“We don’t know what the facts are. Every cruise line, every ship must maintain a log which records every incident that occurs during every voyage. We will have due access to all of the relevant information in short order.”
Bethel said: “I want to ensure the Bahamian people this matter will be dealt with seriously. We are now armed with host of environmental laws that give the government real power to deal with these matters.”
In an interview with Eyewitness News Online last week, Joseph Darville, the chairman of the non-profit organization, Save The Bays said government must stand firm and enforce legislation to protect this nation from become a ‘dumping ground’ for cruise lines.
“Until we see that consortium of environmental bills enforced with all the accompanying legislation to bring action against these vessels there isn’t much we can do.”
“We still stand to be treated like a dumping ground,” said Darville.