Risk & Compliance

Cruise Operator Fined $40M in Pollution Case

Crew members on a Princess Cruise Lines ship illegally dumped waste into the ocean and then lied to investigators, the U.S. government says.
Matthew HellerDecember 1, 2016
Cruise Operator Fined $40M in Pollution Case

Princess Cruise Lines has agreed to plead guilty to felonies and pay a record $40 million fine for illegally discharging waste off the coast of England and trying to cover up its “deliberate pollution of the seas.”

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the company’s Caribbean Princess ship had been making illegal discharges through bypass equipment known as a “magic pipe” since 2005, one year after it was placed in service.

The plea agreement announced Thursday relates to an incident off the coast of England on Aug. 23, 2013, when the Caribbean Princess discharged approximately 4,227 gallons of “oily waste” generated by shop machinery into the ocean. A newly hired engineer reported the incident and quit his position when the ship reached Southampton, England.

The fine is the largest criminal penalty ever paid involving deliberate dumping by a cruise ship.

“The pollution in this case was the result of more than just bad actors on one ship,” Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden said in a news release. “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,” he added.

Princess Cruise Lines, a subsidiary of Carnival Corp., said it was “extremely disappointed about the inexcusable actions of our employees who violated our policies and environmental law when they bypassed our bilge water treatment system and discharged untreated bilge water into the ocean.”

As Reuters reports, cruise ship travel has “generated concern among environmental groups and governments over water contamination and waste as the industry adds passengers, routes and larger ships.”

Friends of the Earth recently gave Princess an overall grade of “C,” with an “A-” for water quality compliance and an “F” for transparency.

Prosecutors said the Caribbean Princess used the “magic pipe” to circumvent required pollution prevention equipment and the ship’s chief engineer and first senior engineer directed subordinates to lie about the August 2013 discharge.