Cruise line get USD 40 million fine for polution

Princess Cruises has been fined US$40 million after pleading guilty to illegally polluting the sea and trying to cover it up. The illegal dumping came to light back in August 2013 when a newly-recruited engineer, working on Caribbean Princess, reported a so-called ‘magic pipe’ being used to illegally get rid of oily waste off the coast of Britain. The fine – the largest of its kind – will send a strong message to the entire cruise industry, said John Cruden, assistant attorney general for the US Justice Department’s environmental division. He said Caribbean Princess broke the law, covered it up and then lied about it. “The pollution in this case was the result of more than just bad actors on one ship,” he said. “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.” Alongside the fine, the US federal court also ordered that 78 ships belonging to other brands owned by parent company Carnival are subject to a five-year environmental compliance programme. These include ships of Holland America Line, Cunard Line, Seabourn Cruise Line and Costa Cruises. Princess cruises, based in California, pleaded guilty to seven felony charges relating to polluting and intentional acts to cover it up. The Justice Department said the 3,192-passenger Caribbean Princess had discharged oily waste into the sea for years through a ‘magic pipe’ that bypassed the ship’s waste treatment system. One discharge, on August 26 2013, involved dumping 4,227 gallons just 23 miles off the coast of England within an ‘Exclusive Economic Zone’. At one stage, the chief engineer of the ship held a ‘sham meeting’ in the engine control room pretending to look into the allegations while holding up a sign stating ‘LA is listening’, which staff believed to be referring to the company’s headquarters. As part of a major investigation, five other Princess ships were found to have been involved in illegal activity. This included using clean sea water to trick onboard sensors that would otherwise have detected that improperly contaminated bilge water was being discharged. The Justice Department indicated the motive was financial, as the chief engineer who ordered the dumping off the UK coast told staff it cost too much to offload it properly. A statement from Princess Cruises said: “We are 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.” It said once it had been made aware of the allegations it launched its own internal investigation and discovered illegal practices on some of its other ships. “Although we had policies and procedures in place, it became apparent they were not fully effective. We are very sorry that this happened and have taken additional steps to ensure we meet or exceed all environmental requirements,” it said. “In fact, over the past three years we have implemented a number of corrective measures to improve our oversight and accountability. For example, we completely restructured our entire fleet operations organization including new leadership. We also increased the scope and frequency of our training, and proactively invested millions of dollars to upgrade our equipment to new ship standards to ensure compliance with all environmental regulations. “The marine environment is incredibly important to us and we are using this experience to further improve our operations. Princess Cruises stands committed to environmental practices that protect our oceans.”