Opinion: Does Carnival owe the government?



Julie Selby

Julie Selby

Julie Selby is a freshman journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]

Carnival Cruise Lines has been having a tough time lately. After having multiple problems with various cruise ships — including the infamous Triumph incident when raw sewage was sloshing around inside the ship due to a fire in the engine room, leaving passengers disgusted and struggling for days — Carnival is in the spotlight again. In a recent statement in a letter sent to Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Carnival said it would not be reimbursing the government for the $780,000 it cost to aid the ailing ship back in February.

Rockefeller was originally inquiring about Carnival’s safety record before asking if the cruise line planned to reimburse the government for aiding Triumph. Carnival refused to do so; from its statement, “the duty to render assistance at sea to those in need is a universal obligation of the entire maritime community.”

Carnival does make an excellent point. Imagine being stuck at sea only to have the Coast Guard come to aid you — at a fee. It is the Coast Guard’s job to help those in peril and adrift at sea. To ask for reimbursement merely because of the hype and attention the incident received does not strike me as what the Coast Guard is all about. Yes, Carnival should agree to compensate the government in pure appreciation. Who knows how long those people would have lived in those vile conditions without help of the Coast Guard? It would look good (and be morally correct) on Carnival’s part to show gratitude, but the company should not be bound to do so.

The only problem I have with Carnival’s decision is that the $780,000 price tag on the Triumph rescue comes at taxpayer expense. The company has more than enough money to pay for its error, and as a struggling nation, it astounds me that it will not have the decency to do so.

This issue also brings up the 2010 incident aboard another Carnival ship, Splendor. This ship also suffered a fire in the engine room and was dead at sea. The Navy provided food rations for the passengers, and the Coast Guard secured and aided the ship back to shore. This episode cost the government $3.4 million — and Carnival has not returned a penny.

Furthermore, Rockefeller went on to state, “You [Carnival] reportedly pay little or nothing in federal taxes.” That statement is going to ruffle a lot of taxpaying feathers. Rockefeller is basically stating that Carnival keeps getting its butt saved by the government time and time again and gives nothing in return, except for the fact that Carnival occasionally aids the Coast Guard in rescues with its ships.

It is hard to form a concrete stance on this issue. No ship or person should ever have to pay for being rescued by the Coast Guard. But Carnival executives reversed course Tuesday and agreed to repay the government; otherwise, they would have just seemed like a bunch of freeloaders who desperately needed to get off their pedestal.

Contact Julie Selby at [email protected].