Princess Cruise Lines has agreed to pay a record $40 million settlement to end charges that it illegally dumped oil-contaminated waste from a ship in U.K. and U.S. ports and tried to hide it from authorities. The the Carnival Corp. subsidiary pled guilty to seven felony charges over the illegal dumping of waste from its Caribbean Princess cruise ship. The settlement is the largest-ever criminal penalty involving deliberate vessel pollution, according to the DOJ. U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said:
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. Our hope is that all companies abide by regulations that are in place to protect our natural resources and prevent environmental harm.
In addition to the $40 million penalty, the plea agreement calls for a court-supervised environmental compliance program that will oversee cruise ships from eight Carnival companies, including Holland America Line NV, Seabourn Cruise Line Ltd. and AIDA Cruises. The five-year program will include a court-appointed monitor and independent audits, according to the DOJ.
The investigation was prompted by a whistleblowing engineer on the Caribbean Princess who alerted the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency to a “magic pipe” on the ship that was used to illegally discharge more than 4,000 gallons of oily waste 23 miles off the coast of England in August 2013, according to the DOJ. The head engineers on the ship removed the pipe and ordered subordinates to lie.
Acting on the U.K. agency’s tip, the U.S. Coast Guard examined the Caribbean Princess when it arrived in New York City in September 2013. Prosecutors say the Caribbean Princess made illegal discharges beginning in 2005, first with a different valve and then with the magic pipe. In addition, U.S. authorities discovered that the Caribbean Princess and four other Princess ships were illegally opening a salt water valve when processing bilge waste to prevent the oil content monitor from stopping the illegal overboard discharge.
The ships also failed to properly process oily bilge water and did not record the practices truthfully, according to the DOJ. Assistant U.S. Attorney General Cruden said:
This involved more than just bad actors on one ship and took the company to task on its culture and management. This is a company that knew better and should have done better. Hopefully the outcome of this case has the potential not just to chart a new course for this company, but for other companies as well.
The illegal practices on other ships were uncovered as a result of this internal probe, according to the company. Princess said that it has already increased training, upgraded equipment and restructured its fleet operation organization with new leadership. The government is represented by John Cruden, Thomas Watts-Fitzgerald, Brendan Sullivan and Richard A. Udell of the U.S. Department of Justice. The case is U.S. v. Princess Cruise Lines in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
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