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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, April 27, 2002

Cruise lines fouling coastline, suit charges

By Joyzelle Davis
Bloomberg News Service

LOS ANGELES — Carnival Corp., Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and other cruise ship operators were sued by environmental groups who say the companies improperly dump water along California's coast, endangering ecosystems by introducing non-native species.

The Surfrider Foundation, Environmental Law Foundation and other groups say the cruise liners discharge ballast water — which is pumped into the bottom of a ship to keep it balanced at sea — in violation of California law.

The suit, filed in Los Angeles, seeks a court order forcing Carnival, Royal Caribbean and P&O Princess Cruises Plc to comply with a 1999 law against dumping ballast water within 200 miles of the coast. It also seeks to have the alleged profits from the practice put into an environmental fund.

"They could comply if they chose to. It's simply a matter of cost," said Jim Wheaton of the Environmental Law Foundation.

Ships arriving from international seas are required under California law to dump ballast water at least 200 miles offshore. The environmentalists say it's cheaper for the cruise lines to hug the coastline and not deviate from their route into deep water.

The plaintiffs say the suit is based on the cruise companies' filings with the state harbors agency. "They are reporting their own violations," Wheaton said.

Last week, Carnival pleaded guilty to federal charges of ocean pollution and agreed to pay $18 million in penalties. The company admitted discharging oily waste into the ocean and falsifying records to hide the dumping, prosecutors said. Royal Caribbean paid fines of $18 million in July 1999 and another $9 million in 1998 for pollution violations.