Carnival's Princess Cruise Line to Pay "Largest-Ever" Fine for Intentional Dumping

by Ship & Bunker News Team
Thursday December 1, 2016

The U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs today announced that Princess Cruise Lines Ltd. (Princess) will plead guilty to seven felony charges related to the deliberate dumping of oily waste from its vessel the Caribbean Princess and pay an associated $40 million penalty - the "largest-ever criminal penalty involving deliberate vessel pollution."

Princess, a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation & plc (Carnival), through a plea agreement, will plead guilty to the use of a so-called "magic pipe" for oily waste dumping and the related and intentional cover-up. 

As part of Princess' plea agreement, vessels of eight of Carnival's companies, including Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line N.V., Seabourn Cruise Line Ltd., and AIDA Cruises, will be put under a court supervised Environmental Compliance Program (ECP) for a period of five years, requiring independent audits conducted by a third party and a court appointed monitor.

The U.S. investigation began after the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) indicated to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) that a new engineer on the Caribbean Princess, before quitting his position, had reported that the magic pipe had been used on August 23, 2013 to illegally discharge oily waste off the English coast.

USCG examined the vessel of its arrival at New York City on September 14, 2013, during which crew members, in accordance with the chief engineer and senior first engineer's orders, lied to cover up the dumping.

The Caribbean Princess had been making illegal discharges through bypass equipment since 2005, according to court papers.

On August 26, 2013, 23 miles off the coast of England, Caribbean Princess is said to have discharged approximately 4,227 gallons through the magic pipe while simultaneously running clean seawater through the ship's overboard equipment to generate a false digital record of legitimate discharge.

The U.S. Department of Justice says Caribbean Princess has used multiple methods to conduct illegal dumping, having used a different unauthorised valve prior to the use of the magic pipe.

More than Just One Vessel

The U.S. investigation uncovered two further illegal dumping practices - neither of which were truthfully recorded - that took place on Caribbean Princess, as well as four other Princess ships, including Star Princess, Grand Princess, Coral Princess, and Golden Princess

The first practice was the opening of the salt water valve when bilge waste was being processed by the oily water separator and oil content monitor in order to prevent the oil content monitor from alarming and preventing the overboard discharge - noted to be a routine practice on the Caribbean Princess in 2012 and 2013. 

The second practice saw oily bilge water from the overflow of graywater tanks discharged into machinery space bilges to be pumped back into the graywater system instead of processed as oily bilge waste.

"The pollution in this case was the result of more than just bad actors on one ship," said John C. Cruden, Assistant Attorney General, Environment and Natural Resources Division, U.S. Department of Justice.

"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."

Subject to court approval, $10 million of the $40 million criminal penalty is expected to go toward community service projects, $3 million of which will be directed to marine environmental projects in South Florida, while $1 million will be directed toward projects to benefit the UK marine environment.