FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 1998
ROYAL CARIBBEAN SENTENCED FOR FLEET-WIDE CONSPIRACY OF DUMPING OIL AND LYING TO THE COAST GUARD $1 Million Criminal Fine for Miami Phase of Cruise Ship Case
Washington, DC -- Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. ("RCCL"), the world's second largest passenger cruise line, was sentenced last night to a $1 million criminal fine for dumping oil and lying to the U.S. Coast Guard, announced Lois J. Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General for Environment and Natural Resources, and Thomas E. Scott, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.
"This prosecution demonstrates that Royal Carribean's crimes, including dumping oil into our oceans, lying about it and trying to cover it up by obstructing justice are unacceptable and will be prosecuted vigorously," said Assistant Attorney General Lois J. Schiffer.
The Miami sentencing was for one phase of an investigation that uncovered an array of environmental crimes related to RCCL's fleet-wide conspiracy. U.S. District Court Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks ordered RCCL to pay a $1 million criminal fine for presenting a false Oil Record Book for the Nordic Empress cruise ship to Coast Guard pollution investigators who had spotted the ship leaving a 7 mile long oil slick. When the Coast Guard boarded the ship to investigate, it was presented with a false log designed to conceal the discharges.
During the sentencing hearing the government introduced video tapes showing three Royal Caribbean cruise ships dumping oil as well as a "before and after" video showing the destruction of a secret bypass pipe used to make discharges aboard the Sovereign of the Seas. The "before and after" video was taken during Coast Guard boardings on October 25, 1994, in San Juan after the ship had been observed by a Coast Guard aircraft dumping oil, and during a follow-up boarding on October 29, 1994, in Miami, Florida. RCCL has admitted that it engaged in the crime of obstruction of justice by destroying a bypass pipe, which was cut up in small pieces and placed in a dumpster in Miami, in order to prevent its discovery by the Coast Guard.
Judge Middlebrooks also imposed a period of corporate probation of five years, during which the conduct of the company will be closely monitored, with periodic reports to the Court and the government detailing the company's environmental compliance and including the results of independent audits.
Under the plea agreement RCCL has agreed to pay an additional $8 million in the District of Puerto Rico for the eight felony counts involved in the indictment there. Sentencing in the Puerto Rico case is set for September 25, 1998.
"Both international and domestic law abhor the activities in which Royal Caribbean engaged for over five years while at the same time casting itself as an environmentally 'green' company'" said U.S. Attorney Scott. "RCCL's claim that it had immunity from prosecution was soundly rejected by both the courts in San Juan and Miami. We serve notice by this prosecution that the United States will uphold the internationally accepted rules prohibiting environmental lawlessness," added Mr. Scott.
Due to the extensive nature of the crimes involved, the investigation required the collective resources and efforts of several law enforcement agencies to bring these cases to a successful conclusion: the U.S. Coast Guard, including the Marine Safety Offices in San Juan and Miami, the Criminal Investigative Service, and Marine Safety Laboratory, and the Coast Guard's Office of Chief Counsel and 7th District Legal Office in Miami, Florida, the FBI, the EPA Criminal Investigative Division, the FBI Special Projects Unit, the Military Sealift Command and National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
For a copy of the videotape, please call 202-514-2008.