Maritime News

US fines cruise line record $40m for pollution cover-up

28 April 2017

A US court in Miami, Florida has fined the California-based Princess Cruise Lines Ltd USD40 million for dumping contaminated waste oil overboard and then covering it up – the largest-ever penalty for breaking US maritime pollution law. The judge also awarded USD1 million to the British whistleblower who had alerted the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to the illegal discharges. 

The engineer had discovered the illegal use of a “magic pipe” to bypass pollution prevention equipment when he joined the company’s Caribbean Princess in England in August 2013. The MCA provided evidence from the whistleblower to the US coastguard, who inspected the ship when it reached New York. At inspections in England and New York, some crew members lied to the authorities about the cover-up, in accordance with orders they had received from some of the ship’s officers. 

The company was found to have made illegal discharges through “magic pipes” since 2005 on five of its cruise ships. Princess was also placed on probation for five years, and is required to implement an environmental compliance plan for all its Carnival cruise ship companies trading in the USA.

Praising the “courageous act of a junior crewmember to alert authorities to these criminal behaviours”, Rear Admiral Scott Buschman, a commander with the US coastguard, said: “The selflessness of this individual exposed five different ships that embraced a culture of shortcuts and I am pleased at this outcome.”

As well as contributing to maritime environment projects in the US and UK, USD1 million of the criminal penalty will be deposited in the Abandon Seafarer's Fund, which offers humanitarian relief and support for seafarers abandoned in the US who are witnesses to maritime-related crimes.


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