CARIBBEAN 360 – Princess Cruises, a division of Carnival Corporation, has agreed to pay a US$40 million penalty – the largest-ever criminal penalty involving deliberate vessel pollution – and plead guilty to charges related to illegal dumping of oil-contaminated waste from the Caribbean Princess cruise ship.
The California-based company has agreed to plead guilty to seven felony charges stemming from its deliberate pollution of the seas and intentional acts to cover it up, the US Department of Justice said.
World Maritime News reports that the US investigation was initiated after information was provided to the US Coast Guard (USCG) by the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) indicating that a 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. The engineer quit his position when the ship reached Southampton, England.
The ship’s chief engineer and senior first engineer went on to order a cover-up, including removal of the “magic pipe” and directing subordinates to lie.
The MCA shared evidence with the USCG including before and after photos of the bypass used to make the discharge and showing its disappearance, the US Department of Justice said.
The motive for the crimes was thought to be financial: The chief engineer that ordered the dumping off the coast of England told subordinate engineers that it cost too much to properly offload the waste in port and that the shore-side superintendent who he reported to would not want to pay the expense, the US Department of Justice said.
The USCG conducted an examination of the Caribbean Princess upon its arrival in New York City, New York, on September 14, 2013, during which certain crew members continued to lie in accordance with orders they had received from Princess employees, according to the country’s Department of Justice.
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 August 26, 2013, involved approximately 4,227 gallons, 23 miles off the coast of England within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone.