Princess Cruise Lines has been sentenced to pay a US$40 million penalty related to illegal dumping overboard of oil-contaminated waste and falsification of official logs to conceal the discharges, the US Department of Justice has announced. And it says this is the “largest-ever fine for crimes involving deliberate vessel pollution”.
The sentence has been imposed by US District Judge Patricia A Seitz in Miami, who also ordered that US$1 million be awarded to a British engineer, who first reported the illegal discharges to the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which in turn provided the evidence to the US Coast Guard. The newly hired engineer on Caribbean Princess reported that a so-called ‘magic pipe’ had been used on 23 August 2013 to illegally discharge oily waste off the coast of England without the use of required pollution prevention equipment. The evidence gathered by the whistleblower, including photographs of the magic pipe, led to an inspection of the cruise ship both in England and when it reached New York on 14 September 2013. During each of the separate inspections it was alleged that certain crew members concealed the illegal activity by lying to the authorities in accordance with orders they had received from Caribbean Princess engineering officers.
The sentence imposed by Judge Seitz also requires that Princess remain on probation for five years, during which time all related Carnival cruise ship companies trading in the US will be required to implement an environmental compliance plan that includes independent audits by an outside company and oversight by a court-appointed monitor, US Department of Justice’ statement said.
As a result of the government’s investigation, Princess has already taken various corrective actions, including upgrading the oily water separators and oil content monitors on every ship in its fleet and instituting many new policies.
According to papers filed in court, Caribbean Princess had been making illegal discharges through bypass equipment since 2005, one year after the ship began operations. The August 2013 discharge 23 miles off the coast of England involved 4,227 gallons within the country’s exclusive economic zone. At the same time as the discharge, engineers ran clean seawater through the ship’s monitoring equipment to conceal the criminal conduct and create a false digital record for a legitimate discharge.
The case against Princess included illegal practices which were found to have taken place on five Princess ships – Caribbean Princess, Star Princess, Grand Princess, Coral Princess and Golden Princess.