Princess Cruises to pay record $40M fine for polluting the seas

Princess Cruises to pay record $40M fine for polluting the seas
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Princess Cruises, one of the world's biggest cruise lines, will pay a record $40 million fine for polluting the seas and trying to cover it up, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Thursday.

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The company, which is owned by Carnival Corp., will plead guilty to charges related to illegal dumping of oil-contaminated waste. The DOJ said it is the largest-ever criminal penalty involving deliberate vessel pollution.

If approved, $10 million of the fine would go toward community service projects to enhance the maritime environment, including projects in South Florida and in United Kingdom waters.  

As part of the plea agreement, cruise ships from eight Carnival cruise line companies will be under a court supervision program for five years, which will include independent audits and a court-appointed monitor.

“The pollution in this case was the result of more than just bad actors on one ship,” said John Cruden, assistant attorney general for DOJ’s environment and natural resources division. “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.”

According to the plea agreement and joint factual statement filed in court in Miami, Princess Cruise ships polluted the seas since 2005 in several ways, including using a “magic pipe” to transfer oily waste overboard and opening up a salt water valve to prevent the oil content monitor from halting the overboard discharge. 

U.S. investigators began to probe the company's practices in 2013, after an engineer blew the whistle on the cruise ship for illegally dumping off the coast of England. A senior engineer then removed the bypass pipe and ordered crew members to lie. 

The DOJ said that the apparent motive for the crimes was financial.  The chief engineer who instructed the illegal dumping off the coast of England reportedly told subordinates that it was too costly to properly offload the waste in a port.

“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 Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida in Miami. “Our hope is that all companies abide by regulations that are in place to protect our natural resources and prevent environmental harm.”