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Caribbean cruise line ordered to pay US$40 million for illegal dumping


Caribbean cruise line ordered to pay US$40 million for illegal dumping

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MIAMI – The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) says a Caribbean cruise line has been ordered to pay a US$40 million penalty – the largest-ever for crimes involving deliberate vessel pollution – related to illegal dumping overboard of oil contaminated waste and falsification of official logs in order to conceal the discharges.

The DOJ said the sentence was imposed on Princess Cruise Lines Ltd. (Princess) by US District Judge Patricia A. Seitz.

Judge Seitz 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 (MCA), which in turn provided the evidence to the US Coast Guard, the DOJ said.

It said the newly hired engineer on the Caribbean Princess reported that a so-called “magic pipe” had been used on August 23, 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 then when it reached New York on September 14, 2013, the DOJ said.

During each of the separate inspections, the DOJ said 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 DOJ said the sentence imposed by Judge Seitz also requires that Princess remain on probation for a period of five years during which time all of the 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.

As a result of the US government’s investigation, the DOJ said 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, the Caribbean Princess made illegal discharges through bypass equipment since 2005, one year after the ship began operations.

The August 2013 discharge about 23-miles off the coast of England involved about 4 227 gallons within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone, the DOJ said.

At the same time as the discharge, it said engineers ran clean seawater through the ship’s monitoring equipment in order to conceal the criminal conduct and create a false digital record for a legitimate discharge.

The DOJ said 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.

One practice was to open a salt water valve when bilge waste was being processed by the oily water separator and oil content monitor, the DOJ said.

Acting US Attorney Benjamin G. Greenberg for the Southern District of Florida in Miami said: “The large criminal penalty makes it clear that businesses that operate in our oceans will be held accountable for violating their obligation to safeguard the marine environment.

“The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida and our maritime partners are committed to ensuring that all vessel operators adhere to recognised standards in order to protect our open seas and coasts,” he added. “We will continue to use the US courts to pursue those who circumvent the law for their own personal gain.” (CMC)