FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ENR
FRIDAY, JUNE 19, 1998 (202) 514-2008
TDD (202) 514-1888
OPERATOR OF HOLLAND AMERICAN CRUISE LINE PLEADS GUILTY TO FELONY ENVIRONMENTAL OFFENSES AND AGREES TO PAY $2 MILLION
Second Largest Fine Ever for Cruise Ship Case Follows Record Fine Earlier This Month
WASHINGTON, D.C.-- HAL Beheer BV, the Dutch corporation that operated the Holland America Line cruise ship ss Rotterdam, pled guilty to felony violations of the Act to Prevent Pollution From Ships, announced the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney for the District of Alaska. As part of its plea, the company will pay a $1 million fine, another $1 millon in restitution, and will be placed on probation for a period of five years. The investigation began following a tip from a vessel crew member who refused an order to pump unprocessed oily bilge water overboard.
The case includes the second largest fine ever for an environmental crimes case involving cruise ships. On June 2, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. agreed to pay $9 million for conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges involving oil dumping--the largest fine ever in such case.
"The Alaskan coastal waters are some of our country's most important natural resources," said Lois J. Schiffer Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. "It is inexcusable that Holland American Line would benefit economically from these very waters and pollute them at the same time. They will be held accountable."
"Alaska has seen a dramatic growth in cruise ship traffic in recent years. People come to Alaska because of its pristine environment," said United States Attorney
Robert C. Bundy. "The criminal conviction of one of Alaska's major cruise ship operators shows that we will not tolerate the polluting of our nation's waters."
Filed today in the U.S. District Court in Anchorage, Alaska, the plea agreement provides that HAL Beheer BV will admit to environmental violations by the ss Rotterdam that occurred in Alaska's Inside Passage during the Summer of 1994. HAL Beheer BV today plea guilty to discharging an oily mixture from the bilges of the vessel in violation of the federal law that prohibits dumping of untreated bilge water into coastal waters within three miles of America's shores. The company also plead guilty to failing to keep records of oily mixture discharge, as required by law.
The Vice President of HAL Beheer BV, Daniel Grausz, entered the plea on behalf of the corporation before U.S. District Judge John W. Sedwick on June 19, 1998. The company will be pay a $1 million dollar fine at the hearing and will pay an additional $1 million in restitution to the National Park Foundation within thirty days. The money paid to the Foundation will be earmarked for the benefit, scientific study and protection of National Park Service marine ecosystems in Alaska.
In addition to paying the fine and restitution, HAL Beheer BV, which operates Holland American Line vessels that cruise Alaskan and Canadian waters during the summer months, has agreed to a Court-approved fleet wide compliance program regarding the handling of bilge waste on all HAL vessels. The compliance program requires the addition of pollution reduction equipment on each vessel, training in bilge waste handling for crew, increased reporting requirements, and auditing of bilge waste operations. The program must be implemented during the company's five year probation.
The investigation was initiated by an Assistant Engineer on board the ss Rotterdam who refused an order to pump untreated bilge water overboard. The Assistant Engineer, a Dutch citizen, reported the violations to U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard officers in Vancouver and Juneau. The 1980 Act to Prevent Pollution From Ships provides that, in the discretion of the Judge at sentencing, up to half of the fine amount may be paid to a person giving information leading to conviction.
This case is a joint prosecution between the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Alaska and the Environmental Crimes Section of the Department of Justice. The investigation was conducted by the United States Coast Guard Marine Safety Office in Juneau, Alaska, the Coast Guard Investigative Service, the Criminal Investigations Division of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Rear Admiral Terry M. Cross, Seventeenth Coast Guard Commander noted that, "Holland America made a conscious decision to defer needed maintenance of the Rotterdam's steering gear, causing the vessel to ship excessive seawater. They then pumped the seawater and oil overboard in knowing violation of the law. I consider the criminal conviction and the $2 million penalty appropriate punishment for their total disregard of our environment. This conviction is a message to the cruise ship industry in Alaska - be a steward of the environment you are using."
"This plea agreement sends a clear message to cruise lines," said Steven A. Herman, EPA Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "If they do not comply with the laws that protect the environment, then they will be prosecuted, regardless of where their offenses occur."
Special Agent in Charge George H. Burttram, Anchorage Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, advised that the enforcement of environmental laws are a significant priority for the FBI and will continue to be aggressively pursued through cooperative investigations such as these.