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TDD (202) 514-1888


Cruise Line Faces 21 Felony Counts in 6 Different U.S. Courts

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 of the plea agreement, Royal Caribbean must disclose its internal investigation and assist the government in its prosecution of employees involved in the wrongdoing.

Because of its criminal conduct, Royal Caribbean will operate for the next five years under a court-supervised environmental compliance plan. The company admitted that at least 8 of its cruise ships continued to dump oily bilge and falsify logs after the company was told it was under investigation in October 1994.

"Companies that profit from polluting will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law," said Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner. "Today's announcement further demonstrates that this Administration will not tolerate those who try to gain at the expense of public health and the environment."

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Royal Caribbean will plead guilty to the following representative counts in plea hearings to be scheduled over the course of the next several weeks and, if approved by the Courts, pay the following proposed criminal fines:

If the plea agreement is approved by the courts, $6 million of Royal Caribbean's fine will be allocated to performing community service for the congressionally established Fish & Wildlife Foundation and National Park Service Foundations for environmental projects in each of the six districts where the pleas are being filed.

Attorney General Reno commended the five-year investigation by the Department of Justice and theU.S. Attorneys, as well as the outstanding efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard, FBI, EPA - Criminal Investigations Division, and the Department of Transportation's Office of the Inspector General. Special assistance was provided by the Military Sealift Command, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of State.

All plea agreements and criminal fines are subject to court approval.

For a copy of the videotape showing Royal Caribbean cruise ships dumping waste oil, as well as a "before-and-after" video showing the destruction of a secret bypass pipe used to make discharges, please call 202-514-2008.

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