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Judge Could Block Carnival Cruises From Docking In Baltimore And Other U.S. Ports

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- The Maryland Port Administration is monitoring a situation involving the Carnival Cruise line after a federal judge threatened to temporarily block ships from docking at ports across the United States. The judge is expected to make her decision in June.

Carnival's Pride is based in Baltimore and sails roughly 50 times a year.

"It's very early. It's too soon to tell how this might impact us here at the Port of Baltimore, but we are keeping in touch with Carnival as this case rolls out," said Richard Scher of the Maryland Port Administration. "It's certainly our hope that this case gets resolved without any major impacts to cruising at the Port of Baltimore."

For now, it's business as usual at South Baltimore's cruise terminal, but AAA Mid-Atlantic recommends using a travel agent and getting trip insurance if you have concerns.

"An agent can act as an intermediary and help if something goes wrong," said AAA's Ragina Averella.

The troubles for Carnival stem from possible probation violations in a dumping case.

Almost two years ago, Carnival received a record $40 million fine for dumping oily waste from its Princess ships.

Federal prosecutors now allege the company continued to dump wastewater and more after reaching a settlement.

Prosecutors also said the company improperly prepared for court-ordered audits. Carnival is still under a probationary period.

During probation, prosecutors said ships have dumped gray water into Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park, falsified records, and dumped plastic garbage into the ocean.

None of the allegations involve the Pride or any dumping in Maryland.

Prosecutors said internal emails shared among Carnival's subsidiaries discussed how to prepare ships for audits.

An email from Carnival's German-based cruise line AIDA Cruises said, "It would be really important to go onboard on August 12 for one week in order to have time to manage issues before the audits and avoid findings."

They said a similar email from Carnival's Seattle-based Holland America Line mentioned "prevent audit findings" as a goal in early 2018.

The court filings said the monitor found that Carnival and its subsidiaries repeatedly falsified records, as recently as September 2018, when an engineer on Holland America's Westerdam ship falsified maintenance records to make it appear he had cleaned and tested equipment when he had not.

The same ship, according to court filings, dumped 26,000 gallons of gray water into Glacier Bay National Park in September 2018.

Monitors also found that the Carnival Elation ship dumped plastic garbage overboard during an audit in December. The plastic wasn't being separated from food, court filings said.

A Carnival spokesman told the Miami Herald there were "mischaracterizations made by others to the court." He said environmental responsibility is a "top priority" of the cruise line.

Judge Patricia Seitz said she wants to hear from Carnival executives at a June hearing when she will decide whether to revoke Carnival's docking privileges.

"The people at the top are treating this as a gnat," Seitz said in court this week. "If I could, I would give all the members of the executive committee a visit to the detention center for a couple of days. It's amazing how that helps people come to focus on reality."

Carnival owns nine cruise brands and has 102 ships.

Click here for more information about cruises out of Baltimore.

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