Princess Cruises will pay biggest criminal penalty ever for pollution

'Caribbean Princess' visited ports in Rhode Island, Massachusetts

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WPRI) — Princess Cruises will enter a guilty plea to seven felony charges and pay $40 million in fines for deliberately polluting the sea and covering it up, the U.S. Justice Department said Thursday.

It’s the largest ever criminal penalty related to deliberate vessel pollution.

The ‘Caribbean Princess’ dumped oil-contaminated waste off the coast of England in 2013, observed by a newly hired engineer, who quit the company as soon as the ship reached the port at Southampton, England. Among the processes covered up by Princess Cruises were a “magic pipe” that discharged oil in the 2013 incident, and illegal discharges through bypass equipment, the latter of which had been going on since 2005, a year after the ship began operations.

The routes of Caribbean Princess included stops at ports in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Florida, Maine, New York, and other U.S. states and territories.

When the U.S. Coast Guard investigated further, it was discovered that four other Princess ships joined the Caribbean Princess in illegal waste practices — the Star Princess, Grand Princess, Coral Princess and Golden Princess — related to bilge waste and “graywater.”

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

After the government investigation, the DOJ cited court documents saying that Princess Cruises has now undertaken remedial measures, including upgrades on “oily water separators” and oil content monitors on every ship in the fleet. The company has also instituted several new policies.

Princess Cruise Lines Ltd. is a subsidary of Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest cruise company, and under the Princess plea agreement, cruise ships in other Carnival subsidiaries will have to operate under a court-supervised environmental compliance program and independent audits. Those subsidiaries include Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line N.V., Seabourn Cruise Line Ltd., and AIDA Cruises.