Princess Cruise Lines To Pay Largest-Ever Criminal Penalty For Deliberate Vessel Pollution


Company to Pay $40 Million and Implement Remedial Measures on All Carnival Companies Visiting U.S. Ports

During the campaign leading to the Key West Channel dredging referendum, the question of the efficiency of cruise ship waste water system came to the forefront of the debate. After years of litigation, the image of wastewater tanks regularly overflowing into the bilge of the Caribbean Princess is reaching the public. The Caribbean Princess is one of the cruise ships that visits Key West during the winter season. Here is the account of a runaway sewer system, secret discharge pipes and onboard monitoring equipment tampering.

Princess Cruise Lines Ltd. (Princess) has agreed to plead guilty to seven felony charges stemming from its deliberate pollution of the seas and intentional acts to cover it up.  Princess will pay a $40 million penalty– the largest-ever criminal penalty involving deliberate vessel pollution – and plead guilty to charges related to illegal dumping of oil contaminated waste from the Caribbean Princess cruise ship.  The plea agreement was announced today by U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer for the Southern District of Florida in Miami, Florida and Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

Princess, headquartered in Santa Clarita, California, is a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation (Carnival), which owns and operates multiple cruise lines and collectively comprises the world’s largest cruise company.  Carnival is headquartered in Miami.  As part of the plea agreement with Princess, cruise ships from eight Carnival cruise line companies (Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line N.V., Seabourn Cruise Line Ltd. and AIDA Cruises) will be under a court supervised Environmental Compliance Program (ECP) for five years.  The ECP will require independent audits by an outside entity and a court appointed monitor.

The charges to which Princess will plead guilty concern the Caribbean Princess cruise ship which visited various U.S. ports in Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, U.S. Virgin Islands and Virginia.  The U.S. investigation was initiated after information was provided to the U.S. Coast Guard by the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) indicating that a newly hired engineer on the Caribbean Princess reported that a so-called “magic pipe” had been used on Aug. 23, 2013, to illegally discharge oily waste off the coast of England.  The whistleblowing engineer quit his position when the ship reached Southampton, England.  The chief engineer and senior first engineer ordered a cover-up, including removal of the magic pipe and directing subordinates to lie.  The MCA shared evidence with the U.S. Coast Guard, including before and after photos of the bypass used to make the discharge and showing its disappearance.  The U.S. Coast Guard conducted an examination of the Caribbean Princess upon its arrival in New York City, New York, on Sept. 14, 2013, during which certain crew members continued to lie in accordance with orders they had received from Princess employees.

According to papers filed in court, the Caribbean Princess had been making illegal discharges through bypass equipment since 2005, one year after the ship began operations.  The discharge on Aug. 26, 2013, involved approximately 4,227 gallons, 23 miles off the coast of England within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone.  At the same time as the discharge, engineers simultaneously ran clean seawater through the ship’s overboard equipment in order to create a false digital record for a legitimate discharge.

Caribbean Princess used multiple methods over the course of time to pollute the seas.  Prior to the installation of the bypass pipe used to make the discharge off the coast of England, a different unauthorized valve was used.  When the Department of Justice investigative team conducted a consensual boarding of the ship in Houston, Texas, on March 8, 2013, they found the valve that crew members had described.  When it was removed by Princess at the department’s request, it was found to contain black oil.

In addition to the use of a magic pipe to circumvent the oily water separator and oil content monitor required pollution prevention equipment, the U.S. investigation uncovered two other illegal practices which were found to have taken place on the Caribbean Princess as well as four other Princess ships – Star PrincessGrand PrincessCoral Princess and Golden Princess.  One practice was to open a salt water valve when bilge waste was being processed by the oily water separator and oil content monitor.  The purpose was to prevent the oil content monitor from otherwise alarming and stopping the overboard discharge.  This was done routinely on the Caribbean Princess in 2012 and 2013.  The second practice involved discharges of oily bilge water originating from the overflow of graywater tanks into the machinery space bilges.  This waste was pumped back into the graywater system rather than being processed as oily bilge waste.  Neither of these practices were truthfully recorded in the oil record book as required.  All of the bypassing took place through the graywater system which was discharged when the ship was more than four nautical miles from land.  As a result, discharges within U.S. waters were likely.

“The conduct being addressed today is particularly troubling because the Carnival family of companies has a documented history of environmental violations, including in the Southern District of Florida,” said U.S. Attorney Ferrer.  “Our hope is that all companies abide by regulations that are in place to protect our natural resources and prevent environmental harm.  Today’s case should send a powerful message to other companies that the U.S. government will continue to enforce a zero tolerance policy for deliberate ocean dumping that endangers the countless animals, marine life and humans who rely on clean water to survive.”

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

“The safety, security and environmental stewardship of our ports, waterways and oceans is an important Coast Guard mission set and the complexity of the challenges we face today requires a global unity of effort among law enforcement partners,” said Rear Admiral Scott Buschman Commander, Coast Guard District Seven.  “I sincerely thank the U.S. Attorney and the United Kingdom Maritime and Coastguard Agency for your leadership, your collaboration and the hard work put forth to reach a plea agreement with significant penalties that serve as a clear warning to all polluters.”

“This shows just how well the U.K. and U.S. can work together on these kind of cases,” said Jeremy Smart, head of enforcement at the Maritime & Coastguard Agency of the United Kingdom.  “It also sends a clear message to the industry that this kind of pollution practice will not be tolerated anywhere in the world.  It also shows that we will always take any information we are given by those who report such practices to us very seriously and will act upon it.”

In addition to the criminal information, a plea agreement and joint factual statement were today filed in court in Miami.  Photographs of some of the evidence provided by the whistleblower and obtained by the government were also filed in federal court.  In the factual statement, Princess also admitted to the following:

  • Illegal discharges took place on the Caribbean Princessdating back to 2005, one year after the vessel started operations, as part of a conspiracy to violate the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships and to obstruct justice.
  • Different bypass methods were used over the course of time, including a “magic pipe” used to transfer oily waste overboard.
  • After learning that an engineer had blown the whistle, senior ship engineers dismantled the bypass pipe and instructed crew members to lie.
  • Prior to the MCA boarding, the chief engineer and senior first engineer ordered crew members to lie.  Following the MCA’s inquiry, the chief engineer held a sham meeting in the engine control room to pretend to look into the allegations while holding up a sign stating: “LA is listening.”  The engineers present understood that anything said might be heard by those at the company’s headquarters in Los Angeles, California, because the engine control room contained a recording device intended to monitor conversations in the event of an incident.
  • When using the magic pipe, engineers processed sea water through the oily water separator in order to create a digital record to account for the missing waste.
  • Shore-side management failed to provide and exercise sufficient supervision and management controls to prevent or detect criminal violations by Caribbean Princesscrew members.
  • A perceived motive for the crimes was financial – the chief engineer that ordered the dumping off the coast of England told subordinate engineers that it cost too much to properly offload the waste in port and that the shore-side superintendent who he reported to would not want to pay the expense.
  • Princess engineers on the Caribbean Princessindicated that the chief engineer responsible for the discharge on Aug. 26, 2013, was known as “broccino corto” (a person with short arms), an Italian expression for a cheap person whose arms are too short to reach his wallet. Some expressed the same opinion of the shore-side superintendent.
  • Graywater tanks overflowed into the bilges on a routine basis and were pumped back into the graywater system and then improperly discharged overboard when they were required to be treated as oil contaminated bilge waste.  The overflows took place when internal floats in the graywater collection tanks got stuck due to large amounts of fat, grease and food particles from the galley that drained into the graywater system.  Graywater tanks overflowed at least once a month and, at times, as frequently as once per week.  Princess had no written procedures or training for how internal gray water spills were supposed to be cleaned up and the problem remained uncorrected for many years.
  • Princess discovered “stub pipes” along the entire length of the ship for the apparent purpose of pumping graywater overflows into the bilges back into the graywater system and subsequently overboard.

According to papers filed in court, Princess has undertaken remedial measures in response to the government’s investigation, including upgrading the oily water separators and oil content monitors on every ship in its fleet and instituting many new policies.

If approved by the court, $10 million of the $40 million criminal penalty will be devoted to community service projects to benefit the maritime environment; $3 million of the community service payments will go to environmental projects in South Florida; $1 million will be earmarked for projects to benefit the marine environment in United Kingdom waters.

The prosecution was made possible through the combined efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, the U.S. Coast Guard 7th District Legal Office, U.S. Coast Guard’s Office of Maritime and International Law and U.S. Coast Guard Office of Investigations and Analysis.  In announcing the case, U.S. Attorney Ferrer and Assistant Attorney General Cruden expressed their appreciation to the U.K.’s MCA for their cooperation and assistance.  The case was prosecuted by Richard A. Udell, Senior Litigation Counsel with the Environmental Crimes Section of the Department of Justice and Thomas Watts-FitzGerald, Deputy Chief, Economic & Environmental Crimes Section for the Southern District of Florida.

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4 thoughts on “Princess Cruise Lines To Pay Largest-Ever Criminal Penalty For Deliberate Vessel Pollution

  1. Bravo!!!

    Gosh, how well do I recall Robin Lockwood, M.D., then president of KW Chamber of Commerce, saying at a “channel-widening study” forum sponsored by the Chamber, that the dirtiest worst possible cruise ships were calling on Key West (and had been since the beginning of cruise ship time), and that’s why the channel needed to be widened: so bigger, longer, new cruise ships, with modern wastewater treatment plants on board, could get into Key West’s harbor (but no mention of ever stopping the dirtiest worst possible cruise ships from calling on Key West).

    A friend told me as he was leaving that forum, that he had heard Dr. Lockwood say he probably should not have said that. The next morning, a video of the forum was on the Chamber’s website. What Dr. Lockwood had said was reported in that morning’s Key West Citizen. Then, the Chamber took down the video, saying it was the Chamber’s video, it did not have to share it with the public.

    The next “channel-widening study” forum was hosted by Ed Russo, the boyfriend of Jennfier Hulse (now they are married). Jennifer then was the Chamber’s lawyer, who herself had been the Chamber’s hit woman at all prior public forums on widening the channel. Jennifer argued strenuously that the referendum was only about a study, it was not about widening the channel. In the next breath, Jennifer said the referendum was about jobs and the economy. Jennifer said cruise ships would stop calling on Key West (one could only hope!), if the channel was not widened to accommodate the newer bigger cruise ships.

    At Ed Russo’s ensuing forum, moderated by Ezra Marcus, of US 1 Radio, Jolly Benson represented the anti- bigger cruise ships forces (aka, the patriots), while Lockwood and Hulse sat side by side representing the Empire.

    Also siding with the Evil Empire, all along at forums, John Dolan-Heitlinger, an employee of Historical Tours of America, which ran (and still runs) conch trains out to cruise ships on the outer mole pier, to bring passengers into HTA terminals and gift shops, paid over half a million $$ by the city annually to do that. HTA is Ed Swift’s company. Never saw Ed at any of those forums, and Dolan-Heitlinger never told the audience he was Swift’s proxy at those forums, or that he had started a pro-channel-widening study PAC for Ed, so that he could be on the panel at all of those forums as Ed’s proxy.

    Well, when I got my chance to put a question to the panelists, I addressed Dr. Lockwood. I told him what he had said at the previous forum: the dirtiest, worst possible cruise ships are calling on Key West. I told Lockwood, as the Chamber’s representative, that I was wondering why, if the Chamber knew those cruise ships were calling in Key West, why the Chamber had not been raising bloody hell about it all along? Why had the Chamber not been trying to get those ships stopped from calling on Key West?

    At that point, Jennifer Hulse said she would answer for Lockwood. Earlier in the forum, Jennifer had told the audience she was lawyer, and as such he was able to see the issue differently and better than the audience. I told Jennifer I, too, was a lawyer and to be quiet; I had addressed my question to Lockwood, not to her. Lockwood was who had said at the Chamber’s forum that the dirtiest, worst possible cruise ships were calling on Key West. I want him to answer my question about why the Chamber has not been raising bloody hell about that.

    So, I said to Lockwood, please answer my question. Lockwood said he had not said that at the Chamber’s forum. Whereupon Jolly Benson, bless his insurgent heart, said he had heard Lockwood say it. Had anyone else present heard him say it? Half the hands in the perhaps 50 people audience went up.

    I continued trying to get Lockwood to answer my question, until Ezra Marcus cut me off. I told Ezra, tell Lockwood to answer my question. Ezra asked Lockwood a different question, designed to let him off the hook. I told Ezra, that was not the question I asked Lockwood. Ezra told me to be quiet. I did not be quiet. I kept after Lockwood. Ezra turned off my microphone. I kept after Lockwood for a while without any microphone, then I shut up and went back to my seat.

    That’s the same Dr. Lockwood who sits on the hospital board, on whose watch the hospital went to hell. That’s the same Dr. Lockwood, whose son Robert beat Trish Dochtery-Gibson in the Public Defender race.

    When Hometown PAC’s “channel-widening study” at Tropic Cinema rolled around, the last forum that year, I took two of the Hometown panelists, Bill Becker, news coordinator of US 1 Radio, and Richard Grusin, who used to have his own radio program in Key West, broadcast out of Tropic Cinema some mornings. I told them John Dolan-Heitlinger worked for Ed Swift at Historic Tours of America. That Dolan-Heitlinger had formed a sham PAC, just to get on the panel at channel-widening study forms. That not once had he disclosed he was Ed Swift’s plant at those forums. Not once had any panelists disclosed that, even though they all knew it. I urged Bill and Richard to ask Dolan-Heitlinger to tell the Hometown audience that he worked for Ed Swift and had started the PAC so Swift could have a voice on the channel-widening study forum panels.

    Guess how that went? It didn’t went. Neither Becker nor Grussin asked Dolan-Heitlinger the questions.

    Back during the run up to the “channel-widening study” forum, word from local sailors and fishermen was cruise ships were going off shore and dumping there wastewater and ground up food wastes in the sea.

    I first learned of this breaking news in yesterday’s Key West Citizen. Here’s an excerpt from the Associated Press article published in the Citizen:

    “Miami U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer told a news conference the penalty is the largest ever of its kind. A plea agreement filed in federal court also requires Carnival Corp., parent company of the Princess line, to submit 78 cruise ships across its eight brands to a five year environmental compliance program overseen by a judge. Ferrer said the illegal practices came to light when an engineer aboard the Caribbean Princess discovered the “magic pipe” in 2013 off the coast of Great Britain and told investigators about it. Authorities later learned the 952-foot ship had been illegally dis charging oily water into the ocean since 2005. “Our open seas are not dumping grounds for waste,” Ferrer said. “One thing we must never do is take our clear blue oceans for granted.” A single illegal discharge dumped 4,227 gallons of oil-contaminated waste about 20 miles off the coast of England on Aug. 26, 2013, according to court documents. The same ship has visited Key West a number of times in recent years. The documents also show illegal practices were found on four other Princess ships, including use of clean ocean water to fool onboard sensors that would otherwise detect dumping of improperly contaminated bilge water. Authorities say cost savings was the motive and that the ship’s officers and crew conspired to cover up what was going on.”

    Lame. The cruise ship company bosses saying they were unaware of the dumping until their ships got caught, and they were really sorry … that their ships got caught. They KNEW. They had totally computerized ships. Everything those ships did was in the computers. Including the amount of wastewater produced and disposed of, somewhere. Including the amount of food scraps produced and disposed of, somewhere. Including the amount of oil and its byproducts produced and disposed of, somewhere. If not on shore in disposal/treatment plants, then where? Offshore, obviously.

    Oh, alien space crafts took it off the ships to use as fuel for those ships and food for the aliens.

    Do you think this “breaking news” matters to the KW Chamber of Commerce?

    How about to Mayor Cates and the city commissioners?

    How about to Ed Swift?

    The “channel-widening study” referendum went down in flames. Thereafter, only two people known to me in Key West clamored for the city to stop receiving those cruise ships: Me, and Jerry Weinstock, MD., a retired psychiatrist turned environmental scientist and activist. Just two people kept clamoring for Key West to ban those dirtiest, worst possible cruise ships from calling on Key West.

    Oh, but that would be illegal, I kept hearing. Freedom of the seas. Freedom of public transportation. Freedom of commerce. It’s a federal issue, not a city issue. It’s a state issue, not a city issue.


    The city could have stopped providing harbor assistance: tug boats, dock crews, conch trains, disembarkation ramps. The city could have stopped selling Florida Keys Aqueduct water pumped down here from the mainland to cruise ships, which bought their fresh water here, instead of in Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami before departing for the Caribbean.

    Where went that horde of patriots after they crushed the “channel-widening study referendum?” They went the same place Dr. Lockwood, Jennifer Hulse, Ed Swift and the Chamber of Commerce went. Until, perhaps, now.

    But I won’t be holding my breath that they will clamor for Mayor Cates to lead the charge to stop the dirtiest worst possible cruise ships from calling on Key West. Why would they do that? They reelected Cates without a runoff in the August primary. And they voted 99-1 for him against me in the November general election.

  2. This year, Ed Russo self-published a book titled, “Donald J. Trump: An Environmental Hero”. (I’m not making this up, and it is not a satire or parody)

    Evidently he was Trump’s environmental consultant for 10 years.

    Hatcheting mangroves, bulldozing Scottish shorelines, suing to remove windmills, and calling global warming a hoax invented by the Chinese – heck of an environment hero.

    Thank you citizens of Key West for seeing through the charade that Russo, the Key West Chamber of Commerce, Lockwood, and Hulse had tried to pull over our eyes.

  3. Great work, Blue! I have to agree with Jim…These Orcs just factor in fines as their cost of doing business. Serious jail time for these guys and other white collar criminals will be the only thing that slows them down…Fines need to reflect the amounts stolen.

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