Beautiful sunset framed from the bow of a luxury cruise ship in a vast, calm ocean.

By McClain Schonekas

Princess Cruise Lines Ltd. (“Princess”), a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation, agreed to plead guilty in the Southern District of Florida to seven felony charges stemming from deliberate acts of pollution at sea and intentional acts to cover up the pollution. Princess agreed to pay a steep, $40 million penalty— the largest-ever criminal penalty for deliberate vessel pollution—under the terms of its plea agreement with the government.

Back in August 2013, an engineer on Princess’ cruise ship the Caribbean Princess quit his job and reported the use of a so-called “magic pipe” to illegally discharge oily waste off the coast of England. The chief engineer and senior first engineer of the vessel ordered a cover-up, including the removal of the magic pipe and instructing subordinates to lie. The British Maritime and Coastguard Agency (“MCA”) investigated and ultimately shared its information with the U.S. Coast Guard. The Coast Guard subsequently examined the ship upon its arrival in New York City. Later, in March 2014, the Department of Justice’s investigative team inspected the vessel and found incriminating evidence. Eventually, Princess and the government reached a deal where Princess admitted to multiple acts of wrongdoing.

Pursuant to the factual statement in the plea agreement, Princess admitted that illegal discharges took place on the Caribbean Princess as far back as 2005 and that it engaged in a conspiracy to knowingly discharge oily mixtures in U.S. navigable waters. Princess admitted to using multiple bypass methods to transfer oily waste overboard and admitted to attempting to cover up its actions upon learning that a former engineer had blown the whistle. Ultimately, Princess’ employees’ attempts to cut costs, at the expense of the environment, backfired into a magical mess for the company.

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