Princess Cruises Pleads Guilty to Polluting the Ocean

Tug boats maneuver around the Carnival cruise ship Triumph as she rests against a dock on the east side of the Mobile River after becoming dislodged from its mooring at BAE Shipyard during high winds Wednesday, April 3, 2013 in Mobile, Ala. Triumph was disabled Feb. 10 by an engine fire that stranded thousands of passengers onboard for days in the Gulf. It was towed into port in Mobile. (AP Photo/AL.com, Bill Starling)
Tug boats maneuver around the Carnival cruise ship Triumph as she rests against a dock on the east side of the Mobile River after becoming dislodged from its mooring at BAE Shipyard during high winds Wednesday, April 3, 2013 in Mobile, Ala. Triumph was disabled Feb. 10 by an engine fire that stranded thousands of passengers onboard for days in the Gulf. It was towed into port in Mobile. (AP Photo/AL.com, Bill Starling)

One of the world’s biggest cruise lines, Princess Cruises, has been caught polluting the seas.

The California-based company, which is owned by cruise giant Carnival Corp. (CCL), will plead guilty to seven felony charges related to the polluting and intentional acts to cover it up, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday.

As part of a plea agreement, Princess also will pay a $40 million penalty, the largest ever involving deliberate vessel pollution, the Justice Department said.

“Let’s be very clear: Princess engaged in exceptionally serious criminal offenses,” Assistant Attorney General John Cruden said at a press conference Thursday in Miami to announce the plea agreement. “It deliberately violated the international law regime designed to make sure that our precious oceans are protected.”

The Justice Department said five Princess ships were involved in illegal activity that in at least one case dates back to 2005. An investigation has been underway for several years.

One of the vessels, the 3,192-passenger Caribbean Princess, discharged oily waste into the sea for years through a “magic pipe” that bypassed the ship’s waste treatment system. An investigation of the discharges began in 2013 after a newly hired engineer on the vessel reported the pipe to British authorities, according to the Justice Department. The ship was sailing out of the UK at the time.

After learning of the whistleblower, the chief engineer and senior first engineer of the Caribbean Princess ordered a cover up, including the removal of the magic pipe, and directed subordinates to lie, according to the Justice Department. Tipped off by British authorities, the U.S. Coast Guard conducted an examination of the Caribbean Princess upon its arrival in New York on Sept. 14, 2013, during which certain crew members continued to lie in accordance with orders they had received from Princess employees, the Justice Department said.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Gene Sloan