Princess Cruise Lines Ordered to Pay $40 Million For Deliberate Vessel Pollution

Princess Cruise Lines will be paying $40 million for deliberate vessel pollution after pleading guilty to seven felony charges related to the deliberate pollution of the seas and international acts to cover it up. The penalty is the largest-ever involving deliberate vessel pollution. Princess Cruise Line officials admitted to the illegal dumping of oil contamination waste from the Caribbean Princess cruise ship.

Princess, is a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation, which owns and operates multiple cruise lines and collectively comprises the world’s largest cruise company. The plea agreement also orders cruise ships from either Carnival cruise line companies to be under court supervised Environmental Compliance Program (ECP) for a five-year period.

The investigation began after a newly hired engineer on the Caribbean Princess reported to the U.S. Coast Guard that a “magic pipe” had been used on August 23, 2013, to illegally discharge oily waste off the coast of England. Soon after the report, the engineer quit his position and the chief engineer and senior first engineer ordered a cover-up. The cover-up included removal of the magic pipe and directing those employed by company to lie about its existence. The U.S. Coast Guard conducted a followup examination of the Caribbean Princess when it arrived to New York City, New York, on September 14, 2013. At the time of inspection, Princess employees continued to lie as instructed by their superiors.

Court papers indicated that the illegal discharges through the bypass equipment had been taking place since 2005; only one year after the ship began operating. The August 26, 2013 discharge alone involved approximately 4,227 gallons dumped around 23 miles off the coast of England. In order to create a false digital record for legitimate discharge, the engineers ran clean seawater through the ship’s overboard equipment while conducting the discharge. Caribbean Princess, according to the U.S. Department of Justice used multiple techniques over time to pollute the seas with the discharge of oil.

In addition to the use of a magic pipe, two other illegal practices were determined to be used on the Caribbean Princess as well as four other Princess ships Star Princess, Grand Princess, Coral Princess and Golden Princess. Princess officials admitted that the motive for the crimes was financial stating that the dumping was ordered due to the high cost of proper offload of the waste. Engineers also said that the chief engineer responsible for the August 26, 2013, was known as “broccino corto” (a person with short arms), an Italian expression for a cheap person whose arms are too short to reach his wallet.

The pollution in this case was the result of more than just bad actors on one ship,” said Assistant Attorney General Cruden.  “It reflects very poorly on Princess’s 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.” Since the government investigation, Princess has undertaken remedial measures upgrading the oily water seperators and oil content monitors on every ship in its fleet. New policies have also been put in place.

Pending court approval, of the $40 million criminal penalty, $10 million 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.  

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