Princess Cruise Lines to pay largest-ever criminal penalty for pollution
The whistleblowing engineer quit his position when the ship reached Southampton, England.
The plea agreement was announced by Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer for the Southern District of Florida in Miami, Florida.
Princess, headquartered in Santa Clarita, California, is a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation (Carnival), which owns and operates multiple cruise lines and collectively comprises the world’s largest cruise company. Carnival is headquartered in Miami.
The chief engineer and senior first engineer ordered a cover-up
The ECP will require independent audits by an outside entity and a court appointed monitor.
The charges to which Princess will plead guilty concern the Caribbean Princess cruise ship which visited various U.S. ports in Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, U.S. Virgin Islands and Virginia.
The U.S. investigation uncovered two other illegal practices
The whistleblowing engineer quit his position when the ship reached Southampton, England. The chief engineer and senior first engineer ordered a cover-up, including removal of the magic pipe and directing subordinates to lie.
The MCA shared evidence with the U.S. Coast Guard, including before and after photos of the bypass used to make the discharge and showing its disappearance.
The U.S. Coast Guard conducted an examination of the Caribbean Princess upon its arrival in New York City, New York, on Sept. 14, 2013, during which certain crew members continued to lie in accordance with orders they had received from Princess employees.
According to papers filed in court, the Caribbean Princess had been making illegal discharges through bypass equipment since 2005, one year after the ship began operations.
The discharge on Aug. 26, 2013, involved approximately 4,227 gallons, 23 miles off the coast of England within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
At the same time as the discharge, engineers simultaneously ran clean seawater through the ship’s overboard equipment in order to create a false digital record for a legitimate discharge.
Caribbean Princess used multiple methods over the course of time to pollute the seas. Prior to the installation of the bypass pipe used to make the discharge off the coast of England, a different unauthorized valve was used.
When the Department of Justice investigative team conducted a consensual boarding of the ship in Houston, Texas, on March 8, 2014, they found the valve that crew members had described.
When it was removed by Princess at the department’s request, it was found to contain black oil.
In addition to the use of a magic pipe to circumvent the oily water separator and oil content monitor required pollution prevention equipment, the U.S. investigation uncovered two other illegal practices which were found to have taken place on the Caribbean Princess as well as four other Princess ships – 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 purpose was to prevent the oil content monitor from otherwise alarming and stopping the overboard discharge.
This was done routinely on the Caribbean Princess in 2012 and 2013. The second practice involved discharges of oily bilge water originating from the overflow of graywater tanks into the machinery space bilges.
This waste was pumped back into the graywater system rather than being processed as oily bilge waste. Neither of these practices were truthfully recorded in the oil record book as required.
All of the bypassing took place through the graywater system which was discharged when the ship was more than four nautical miles from land. As a result, discharges within U.S. waters were likely. ■