CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Sen. Jay Rockefeller says the decision by the Carnival Corp. to reimburse the United States for costs associated with two cruise disasters was the least the company could do.
Carnival announced Monday it would reimburse the federal government for costs associated with assisting the Carnival Triumph and Splendor cruise ships, both of which were disabled by fires and had to be towed to port.
"I'm glad to see that Carnival owned up to the bare minimum of corporate responsibility by reimbursing federal taxpayers for these two incidents," Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said in a statement.
The Splendor incident occurred in November 2010 and the Triumph this past February. The Triumph incident left 4,200 people stranded in harsh conditions in the Gulf of Mexico for five days.
Rockefeller, chairman of the U.S. Senate Commerce, Transportation and Science Committee, has been highly critical of the company following the Triumph mishap.
He said it was the latest in a long string of events that show the cruise industry isn't doing its job to safeguard its passengers
Rockefeller wrote a letter to Carnival chief executive Mickey Arison last month expressing his concerns and asking a series of questions regarding the ship's maintenance and the company's passenger safety practices.
He also asked the company if it intended to reimburse the government for costs associated with rescuing the ships.
Rockefeller said it cost the U.S. Coast guard nearly $780,000 to respond to the Triumph incident. He said rescuing the Splendor cost the Coast Guard and Navy a combined $3.4 million.
"These costs must ultimately be borne by the federal taxpayers," Rockefeller said in his letter.
Since the company pays very little federal tax, Rockefeller asked if it would reimburse the Coast Guard and Navy for their response costs.
In the company's initial response to Rockefeller's request, Senior Vice President James Hunn seemed to indicate it would not.
"Carnival's policy is to honor maritime tradition that holds that the duty to render assistance at sea to those in need is a universal obligation of the entire maritime community," Hunn said.