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Royal Caribbean To Pay Record $18 Million Criminal Fine For Dumping Oil And Hazardous Chemicals, Making False Statements; Cruise Line Faces 21 Felony Counts in 6 Different U.S. Courts
Release Date: 07/21/1999
(#99112) New York, New York -- Attached, for your information, is a U.S. Department of Justice release regarding the settlement of criminal charges levied against Roy Caribbean Cruises, Ltd.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., one of the world's largest passenger cruise lines, has agreed to pay a record $18 million criminal fine and has agreed to a 21 federal felony count plea agreement for dumping waste oil and hazardous chemicals and lying to the U.S. Coast Guard, the Justice Department announced.
In a plea agreement, filed in U.S. District Court in six cities, Royal Caribbean admitted that it routinely dumped waste oil from its fleet of cruise ships, such as the environmentally sensitive Inside Passage of Alaska. It also pleaded guilty to the unprecedented charge that it deliberately dumped into U.S. harbors and coastal areas many other types of pollutants, including hazardous chemicals from photo processing equipment, dry cleaning shops and printing presses.
The $18 million fine is the largest ever to be paid by a cruise line in connection with polluting U.S. waters.
The plea agreements are being filed in cities in areas where Royal Caribbean violated federal environmental laws: Miami; New York City; Los Angeles; Anchorage; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; and, San Juan, Puerto Rico. "Royal Caribbean used our nation's waters as its dumping ground, even as it promoted itself as an environmentally 'green' company," said Attorney General Janet Reno. "This case will sound like a foghorn throughout the entire maritime industry."
Under the terms of the plea agreement, the cruise ship operator will also plead guilty to deliberately storing waste from its ships at a Port of Miami pier without a permit, violating federal hazardous waste law. Some hazardous materials, including toxic solvents from dry cleaning operations, were illegally placed in the garbage aboard the ships. The material was then either incinerated on the ship or dumped in U.S. or foreign ports mixed with ordinary garbage.
The 21 new charges follow a guilty plea by Royal Caribbean in June 1998 for similar environmental crimes in Miami and San Juan. The 1998 pleas -- which resulted in a $9 million criminal fine -- involved charges that the company engaged in a fleet-wide conspiracy to dump oil into U.S. coastal waters and lied to the U.S. Coast Guard to cover up the crime by falsifying oil logs required by law. Two Royal Caribbean engineers under federal indictment in San Juan remain fugitives. If today's pleas are approved by the six courts, the total amount of fines paid will total $27 million.
The charges announced today charges include crimes committed after the government's investigation began in October 1994, when the Coast Guard caught Royal Caribbean's Sovereign of the Seas dumping waste off the coast of Puerto Rico during a surveillance operation. Evidence in the case included video tape of the dumping, the company's own records, and oil fingerprinting technology that matched the oil found in the ocean to the oil tank aboard the cruise ship.
"The Coast Guard relies on a combination of prevention, enforcement and response to carry out its environmental protection mission," said Vice Admiral James C. Card, Vice Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. "Vigorous prosecution of flagrant violators is essential to ensure full compliance with the law."
As a result of the government's investigation, Royal Caribbean has been forced to properly offload in port hundreds of thousands of gallons of oily bilge waste, waste that had previously dumped illegally at sea. It also has replaced pollution prevention equipment. While the plea agreement announced today resolves crimes committed by Royal Caribbean known to the government, the government's investigation of responsible individuals is continuing. As part