Princess Cruise Liners fined in illegal ocean pollution case
Company tried to cover up severe violations of environmental regulation
United States Department of Justice announced on the 1st December that Princess Cruise Liners has received a US$40m penalty after pleading guilty to seven federal charges in an illegal ocean pollution case that involved one ship’s use of a so-called magic pipe to divert oily waste into the waters.
According to the press release “Princess will pay a $40 million penalty– the largest-ever criminal penalty involving deliberate vessel pollution – and plead guilty to charges related to illegal dumping of oil contaminated waste from the Caribbean Princess cruise ship.”
Princess, headquartered in Santa Clarita, California, is a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation (Carnival), which owns and operates multiple cruise lines and collectively comprises the world’s largest cruise company.
As part of the plea agreement with Princess, cruise ships from eight Carnival cruise line companies (Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line N.V., Seabourn Cruise Line Ltd. and AIDA Cruises) will be under a court supervised Environmental Compliance Program (ECP) for five years. The ECP will require independent audits by an outside entity and a court appointed monitor.
It said “The U.S. investigation was initiated after information was provided to the U.S. Coast Guard by the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) indicating that a newly hired engineer on the Caribbean Princess reported that a so-called “magic pipe” had been used on Aug. 23, 2013, to illegally discharge oily waste off the coast of England."
“The whistleblowing engineer quit his position when the ship reached Southampton, England. The chief engineer and senior first engineer ordered a cover-up, including removal of the magic pipe and directing subordinates to lie.”
According to papers filed in court, the Caribbean Princess made illegal discharges through bypass equipment since 2005, one year after the ship began operations.
The discharge on Aug. 26, 2013, involved approximately 4,227 gallons, 23 miles off the coast of England within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone. At the same time as the discharge, engineers simultaneously ran clean seawater through the ship’s overboard equipment in order to create a false digital record for a legitimate discharge.
Illegal practices were also found on four other Princess ships, including use of clean ocean water to fool onboard sensors that would otherwise detect dumping of improperly contaminated bilge water. Authorities say cost savings was the motive and that the ship’s officers and crew conspired to cover up what was going on.
History of environmental violations
“The conduct being addressed today is particularly troubling because the Carnival family of companies has a documented history of environmental violations, including in the Southern District of Florida,” said U.S. Attorney Ferrer.
“Our hope is that all companies abide by regulations that are in place to protect our natural resources and prevent environmental harm. Today’s case should send a powerful message to other companies that the U.S. government will continue to enforce a zero tolerance policy for deliberate ocean dumping that endangers the countless animals, marine life and humans who rely on clean water to survive.”
If approved by the court, $10 million of the $40 million criminal penalty will be devoted to community service projects to benefit the maritime environment; $3 million of the community service payments will go to environmental projects in South Florida; $1 million will be earmarked for projects to benefit the marine environment in United Kingdom waters.
See our product guides to Travel and Transport.