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Princess Cruise Lines Slapped With $40M Criminal Fine By Feds For Illegal Waste Dumping At Sea



WASHINGTON, D.C. — A cruise line that regularly stops in St. Thomas has to pay a $40 million penalty for intentional illegal discharges from one of its vessels, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

According to a Dec. 1 Justice Department press release, Princess Cruise Lines Ltd. has agreed to plead guilty to seven felony charges stemming from the deliberate release of oily waste into the ocean from Caribbean Princess and subsequent activities intended to cover up the illegal discharges.

The $40 million is the largest criminal penalty involving the intentional discharge of pollution by a vessel, the Justice Department wrote. The penalty is part of a plea agreement between the company and federal prosecutors.

Princess Cruise Lines is part of the Carnival Corporation, which claims to be the world’s largest “travel leisure” company, with a combined fleet of more than 100 cruise ships and 10 cruise line brands.

“The pollution in this case was the result of more than just bad actors on one ship,” Assistant U.S. Attorney General John Cruden said in the press release. “It reflects very poorly on Princess’s culture and management.”

Wilfredo Ferrer, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida stated that the criminal conduct by the cruise ship company is “particularly troubling because the Carnival family of companies has a documented history of environmental violations.”

The U.S. Coast Guard began their investigation in 2013 after the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency reported that a newly hired engineer on Caribbean Princess stated that oily waste had been illegally discharged off the coast of England on Aug. 23 of that year.

The whistle blower reported the ship was discharging waste through a so-called “magic pipe” that bypassed the equipment the ship was required to have onboard to monitor and prevent pollutants from entering the ocean. As a result, the crew was questioned by authorities.

“The chief engineer and senior first engineer ordered a cover-up, including removal of the magic pipe and directing subordinates to lie,” according to the Department of Justice.

In September 2013, Caribbean Princess returned to New York, where coast guard personnel inspected the ship and interviewed employees. Crew members continued to lie as part of the cover-up, the press release notes.

The incident off the coast of England was not the only case where Caribbean Princess illegally discharged waste. Court documents filed in connection with the investigation state the ship had been illegally discharging pollutants by various methods since 2005, the year after the ship was launched.

During this period, Caribbean Princess visited ports in St. Thomas, Puerto Rico, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Maine.

Caribbean Princess and other Princess Cruise Lines’ ships are regular visitors to Bar Harbor, usually making port in the fall. Caribbean Princess visited Bar Harbor four times in September and October. The visits began before the violations were discovered. According to a 2012 cruise ship schedule, four visits by the ship were scheduled for that year.

According to the Department of Justice, Princess Cruise Lines has taken remedial steps to prevent further illegal discharges, including equipment upgrades and instituting new policies.


U.S. Attorney Wilfredo Ferrer

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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