Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. (RCCL) was convicted in 1998 and 1999 and paid a total of $27 million in criminal penalties. The investigation was initiated as a result of a proactive Coast Guard surveillance operation that filmed the Sovereign of the Seas, then the largest cruise ship in the world, discharging oil on its way into San Juan, Puerto Rico. The investigation discovered that a secret bypass pipe was destroyed after a Coast Guard inspection and that similar methods of discharging waste oil were in use on every Royal Caribbean cruise ship. This was the first vessel prosecution to charge false statements for the use in port of a false Oil Record Book, a required log in which all overboard discharges must be accurately recorded and which is regularly inspected by the Coast Guard.
The United States successfully obtained favorable district court opinions in San Juan and Miami upholding the prosecution of Royal Caribbean, a company headquartered in the United States and traded on the New York stock exchange, that had asserted that the United States lacked jurisdiction over the foreign registered ships. In 1998, Royal Caribbean pleaded guilty and paid $9 million, while a follow-on investigation resulted in an $18 million settlement in 1999 that included false statement charges for the use of the false Oil Record Book in six separate federal judicial districts: Miami; New York City; Los Angeles; Anchorage; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; and, San Juan, Puerto Rico. The 1999 prosecution also included violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA), the Oil Pollution Act (OPA), and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). These violations were based on discharges in port and coastal waters of oily wastes and hazardous chemicals, including dry-cleaning and printing press solvents and photographic chemicals.