Micky's Mea Culpa: Carnival CEO to Refund US Taxpayers

Mickey Arison, CEO Carnival Corp.
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Mickey Arison, CEO Carnival Corp.

Billionaire Micky Arison is offering to refund U.S. taxpayers the cost of the Navy and Coast Guard's assistance with two of Carnival's highest-profile marine incidents.

In a statement, Carnival said it's in the process of voluntarily submitting payment to the Treasury reimbursing the federal government for costs related to the drifting of the Triumph in February of this year and the Pacific Ocean stranding of the Splendor in 2010. These costs have previously been estimated at $780,000 and $3.4 million, respectively.

Carnival points out that no agencies have requested remuneration. But the move comes after a direct appeal from the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. Sen. Jay Rockefeller accused Arison of "bloodsucking off the American people" for not covering the costs of rushing to the aid of Carnival's 90 marine mishaps in the last five years.

"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 said. "I am still committed to making sure the cruise industry as a whole pays its fair share in taxes, complies with strict safety standards, and holds the safety of its passengers above profits."

Carnival made no mention of other incidents, but the move will likely raise eyebrows in the industry.

Adam Goldstein, the CEO of rival Royal Caribbean International told CNBC exclusively earlier, "To the best of my knowledge, the Coast Guard couldn't accept reimbursement the way the laws are structured today."

Goldstein said that a quid pro quo exists in the industry whereby cruise operators detour to help others in distress at the request of the Coast Guard without reimbursement.

Carnival also confirmed that Arison will attend its annual shareholder meeting in London on Wednesday. There had been speculation that the CEO would not attend after he pre-recorded a video emphasizing Carnival's commitment to safety.