Wells: Waters of The Bahamas will not be comprised

Renward Wells, Minister of Transport and Local Government.

Carnival says all discharges were beyond 12 miles from land and fully treated

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Minister of Transport and Local Government, Renward Wells, yesterday charged that the environment and the waters of The Bahamas will not be comprised.

He therefore stressed that any ship that is privileged to enter The Bahamas should not discharge anything harmful into Bahamian waters.

“All ships trading in or passing through Bahamian waters will be held in all respects to the highest international standards of conduct,” said Wells while speaking in the House of Assembly yesterday.

The minister’s comments came on the heels of a docketed Report that raised issues regarding Carnival vessels’ operations in Bahamian waters, specifically as it relates to accidental and or operational discharges from vessels.

The First Annual Report of the Court Appointed Monitor covered the period of April 2017 to April 2019, and was docketed in court in the United States.

Yesterday, Wells said the government has responded very rapidly to this news.

The transport minister said the government has asked The Bahamas Maritime Authority, along with the Port Department and all relevant government agencies, to immediately investigate any and all discharges from vessels in Bahamian waters; to promptly report regarding such discharges; to assess any environmental damage that might have been caused, and to make recommendations as to best practices across the board.

“We have communicated with Carnival on several occasions to elicit clarification and substantiation regarding any and all incidents concerning The Bahamas,” Wells said.

According to the transport minister, the government has so far received from Carnival, two records which includes a record and description of all incidents caused by Carnival Group vessels in Bahamian waters, regardless of the vessel’s registry, and a record and description of all incidents caused by Carnival Group Bahamas registered vessels, regardless of location.

Wells said the government is also processing, cross referencing and investigating these records, using all of its resources.

“We will assess the technical and operational detail of all key incidents,” Wells said, adding that the attorney generals’ office has also been engaged to assess the extent of criminality in these actions, and to determine what remedies are available, based on Bahamian environmental protection laws and any applicable international maritime conventions and the Law of the Sea.

In closing his contribution, Wells reiterated that no ship privileged to enter Bahamian waters should discharge anything harmful.

“Our environment, our waters, will not be compromised,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, Giora Israel, the Senior Vice President of Global Port and Destination Development at the Carnival Corporation, on Wednesday released a statement in response to the recent headlines that reported instances of treated discharge into Bahamian waters in 2017 by Carnival Corporation ships.

According to Israel, the improper discharges in 2017, which were cited in recent news articles, all occurred beyond 12 miles from land.

“All cases were self-identified and self-reported and followed established and accepted reporting protocol,” outlined a statement released yesterday from Israel.

“All discharges from our ships were fully treated prior to release, posing no threat or harm to the marine environment based on independent studies.

“We have over a thousand transits annually in the Bahamas,” Israel said.

The Carnival Senior VP added that the 2017 incidents of discharge represented a very small fraction of the total transits for that year and since the end of 2017, there has only been one instance of an improper discharge, which was again self-identified and self-reported.

“However, we feel even one incident is one too many” Israel admitted.

“Let there be no doubt that Carnival is and has always been committed to protecting the environment and is fully cooperating with all relevant Bahamian authorities to resolve these concerns,” the company’s statement said.

“To be clear, Carnival as a company would not intentionally or knowingly violate the sanctity of the Bahamian environment, for which we have the utmost respect.

“Thousands of our ships’ itineraries successfully travel to and through the country’s waters each year without incident.”