A Princess Cruise ship. Facebook photo.

Princess Cruises, Carnival Corp. to pay $20M for environmental violations

Santa Clarita-based Princess Cruise Lines and its parent company Carnival Corporation has once again been levied a significant fine, after pleading guilty Monday to six charges of environmental probation violations, such as continuing to pollute the oceans.

The world’s largest cruise line, which acquired Princess Cruises in 2003, reached a settlement in Miami with the U.S. Department of Justice to pay a $20 million penalty and face enhanced oversight for the remaining three years of its probation, according to a news release by the Department.  

Probation violations stem from a previous criminal conviction in 2016 when Princess Cruises pleaded guilty to dumping oil-contaminated waste from one of its vessels and intentionally covering up the act by some employees, federal prosecutors said. As a result, the cruise line paid a whopping $40 million fine, considered to be the largest penalty for environmental crimes in the nation, according to U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer.

The 2016 case marked the company’s third conviction for ocean pollution since 1998.

A supervised environmental compliance plan, or ECP, revealed “numerous violations” during the first two of five years of probation, which the company started serving in April 2017, including “major non-conformities,” Justice Department officials stated in the news release.

Several violations cited Monday included falsifying environmental training records, discharging plastic in Bahamian waters, failing to implement new environmental measures required during probation and contacting the U.S. Coast Guard without the required process.

“This case demonstrates the importance of identifying and correcting compliance problems at their source,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark for the Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division in a prepared statement. “Carnival sought to avoid the discovery of problems during the audits rather than learn from them. Carnival’s deliberate deception undermined the court’s supervision of probation.”

In addition to a $20 million fine, Carnival also has to restructure its corporate-compliance efforts, comply with new reporting requirements, pay for 15 additional independent audits per year and make major changes in how it uses and disposes of plastic and non-food waste.

During the hearing, Carnival head officials were asked to personally pledge to comply under the terms of the settlement, according to the Department.

On Tuesday, Princess Cruises’ Santa Clarita office, which serves as its headquarters on Town Center Drive, referred questions to an overall prepared statement:

“Today the U.S. District Court of Southern Florida approved our agreement with the Department of Justice — setting forth new initiatives, improved procedures, additional training and significant investments to ensure we have the strongest and most sustainable environmental compliance program possible.

“Carnival Corporation remains committed to environmental excellence and protecting the environment in which we live, work and travel. Our aspiration is to leave the places we touch even better than when we first arrived.”

The Justice Department also issued a prepared statement:

“A corporation is responsible to its shareholders and board of directors to be profitable, but not by breaking the law and destroying the very environment in which it navigates for profit,” said U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan for the Southern District of Florida.

If the company fails to meet specific deadlines to create improved compliance efforts, Carnival will face fines up to $1 million per day and up to $10 million per day if deadlines are missed by 10 days.

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