WASHINGTON (CN) – Princess Cruise Lines has been fined a record $40 million for illegally dumping oil-contaminated waste and then falsifying logs to conceal the discharges.
According to the Justice Department, a newly hired engineer on the Caribbean Princess reported that a “magic pipe” was used on August 23, 2013, “to discharge oily waste off the coast of England without the use of required pollution prevention equipment.”
All told, the government said, the vessel discharged roughly 4,227 gallons with England’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
“At the same time as the discharge, engineers ran clean seawater through the ship’s monitoring equipment in order to conceal the criminal conduct and create a false digital record for a legitimate discharge,” the Justice Department said.
The criminal suit found that the defendant was doing this routinely on five different Princess ships.
The whistleblower provided the information, including photos of the “magic pipe,” to the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which led to the inspection of the ship in England and again when it reached New York.
“During each of the separate inspections certain crew members concealed the illegal activity by lying to the authorities in accordance with orders they had received from Caribbean Princess engineering officers,” the release stated.
According to the lawsuit, Caribbean Princess had been carrying out illegal discharges since 2005.
“These violations of law were serious, longstanding and designed to conceal illegal discharges,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Wood. “The sentence in this case should ensure that these crimes do not take place in the future and should also send a strong message to others that illegally polluting U.S. waters will not be tolerated.”
In addition to the substantial fine, U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz also placed the cruise line on five-years probation, during which it must submit to independent audits. Seitz also awarded $1 million to the whistleblower.
In a statement, Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises, said the cruise line is “committed to continuing this progress into the next five years of the probation period and beyond. To that end, we began implementing the Environmental Compliance Plan requirements even before all of the terms were finalized with the government.”