Catch of the Week — Princess and Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival Cruise Lines and subsidiary Princess will pay $20 million in criminal penalties for environmental transgressions and violations of probation. Princess and parent Carnival are just over two years into a five-year probation term that stems from Princess’s April 2017 felony conviction for deliberately dumping oil-contaminated wastewater into the open ocean and then engaging in an intentional coverup of its pollution. In that case, the company paid $40 million in what was then the largest-ever penalty for crimes involving deliberate vessel pollution. The British engineer who blew the whistle on the waste oil dumping and concealment scheme received a $1 million reward for his role in bringing the company’s bad practices to light.
The ongoing probation resulting from the 2017 conviction requires all Carnival vessels trading in U.S. ports to comply with a supervised environmental compliance plan (ECP), under which the vessels are subject to independent audit and oversight by a court-appointed monitor.
In the roughly two years in which Carnival and its subsidiaries have operated under the ECP, Carnival’s outside auditor, court-appointment monitor, and Carnival itself have identified numerous violations. Carnival admitted it committed six violations, including:
- deliberately dumping plastic trash in Bahamian waters and failing to accurately record the illegal discharges
- intentionally falsifying environmental training records aboard two cruise ships
- interfering with court supervision by secretly dispatching teams to prepare ships for required independent inspections
- failing to install a corporate compliance manager to implement environmental measures required in the wake of the April 2017 conviction
- attempting to circumvent the court process by contacting the Coast Guard directly after the government had told Carnival to file a motion with the court for the relief it sought
Because of the recent violations, and under the related settlement, Carnival and Princess are now subject to enhanced probationary supervision. However, many see such efforts as futile, and view the $20 million penalty for Carnival’s violations as a mere slap on the wrist, especially given Carnival’s—and its subsidiaries’—status as repeat offenders. Indeed, Carnival’s history of dumping plastic trash and oily waste from its ships dates back to at least as early as 1993.
The United States has a strong interest in preventing maritime pollution and the resulting degradation of ocean environments. Such pollution kills wildlife, negatively impacts ocean ecosystems, and can make sea creatures unsafe for human consumption. Because illegal ocean dumping occurs far from regulators’ eyes, whistleblowers are critical to the enforcement of anti-pollution laws. One such law, the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (“APPS”) incentivizes and justly compensates whistleblowers with monetary awards of up to one half of any penalties or fines collected based on the whistleblower’s information.
- Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships
- Princess Cruise Lines Ltd.
- Princess Cruise Lines Ltd. and its parent company Carnival Cruise Lines & plc.