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Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden Delivers Remarks on the Announcement of Princess Cruise Lines to Pay Largest-Ever Criminal Penalty for Deliberate Vessel Pollution


Miami, FL
United States

Remarks as prepared for delivery

We are here today to announce the largest-ever criminal prosecution involving intentional pollution from ships.  The case involves a $40 million settlement with Princess Cruise Lines, Ltd., involving a total of five ships that did business in as many as 25 U.S. districts and ports. Ten million of the total penalty has been designated for organizational community service to pay for environmental projects to benefit the maritime environment.  This is an extremely important prosecution and a terrific result for the American people and for our oceans.

I want to begin by thanking the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida and his staff for their hard work over the last several years in close coordination with the Environmental Crimes Section of the department’s Environment & Natural Resources Division.

I especially want to thank the United States Coast Guard that was involved in this effort at many different levels.  Rear Admiral Scott A. Buschman of the 7th Coast Guard District and Director Berkow of the Coast Guard Criminal Investigative Service are here today as well as Rear Admiral Steve Anderson, the Judge Advocate General. 

I also want to extend a warm welcome and recognize Captain Jeremy Smart of the United Kingdom’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency for bringing this case to the attention of the United States and doing so in a remarkable manner of exemplary international cooperation. 

The investigation was initiated as the result of a request for assistance by the MCA after an engineer reported a discharge of approximately 4,000 gallons of oil contaminated waste off the coast of England in August 2013 from the Caribbean Princess.  That investigation determined that particular ship – which also visited approximately a dozen U.S. ports – had been illegally discharging oily waste since 2005 through an illegal “magic pipe.”  Key ship personnel concealed the pollution by falsifying the ship’s oil record book, a required log regularly inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard in port.

In addition to using a bypass pipe to circumvent required pollution prevention equipment, the Caribbean Princess and four sister ships engaged in other offenses.  They used sea water to prevent alarms from sounding when too much oil was being discharged overboard.  And, they discharged oily bilge water when graywater tanks overflowed in the engine room.  Meanwhile, their false entries and omissions in the oil record book covered up the pollution. 

Let’s be very clear -- Princess engaged in exceptionally serious criminal offenses.  It deliberately violated the international law regime designed to make sure that our precious oceans are protected.

The company is being held accountable today because it is responsible for failing to properly manage environmental compliance.  Princess itself is to blame because the nature, extent and scope of the crimes involve a striking failure of corporate culture and a serious failure in ship management. 

Like most white collar crime and most other cases of this type, the motive in this case was probably financial, avoiding the cost of offloading sludge and oily waste in accordance with legal requirements.

To their credit, Princess Leadership have accepted responsibility and agreed to plead guilty.

Pursuant to the plea agreement: 

  • Princess will pay $40 million
  • $10 million will go to environmental projects
  • Princess will plead guilty to seven counts, including conspiracy, obstruction and violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.
  • Princess will serve a five-year period of probation
  • Princess will create and comply with an extensive Environmental Compliance Program designed to assure Princess is now and stays in complete compliance with the law.  It also requires that Princess pay for an outside and independent court appointed monitor to help supervise probation. 

In addition, we recognize that Princess has made many improvements as the result of this investigation which have been detailed in the papers filed in court.  These include the upgrading of equipment and the revamping of procedures.  It also includes re-invigorating and empowering environmental officers on every ship.   

This is the largest and most recent in a long series of the Department of Justice’s vigorous prosecutions of large commercial vessels are deliberately polluting our precious ocean environment.  The Department of Justice and Coast Guard have teamed up for over 100 criminal cases of intentional pollution and deliberate falsification of ship records designed to hide the criminal conduct resulting in more than $400 million in criminal penalties and 25 years in prison sentences.  Every segment of the maritime industry has been prosecuted including cruise ships, tankers, container ships, cargo vessels, and both foreign and U.S. registered ships.

In other words, Princess was on notice and its crimes are all the more serious because it failed to abide the message and be deterred by prior prosecutions.  That is why the cost of non-compliance is going up and this is the largest penalty to date. 

We are sending a strong message with this case to the entire industry.  The message is that lying to the U.S. Coast Guard and polluting the marine environment will be identified, investigated and prosecuted.  Vessels of any type entering American ports and waters had better make sure they are in full compliance with the law. We demand good ship management.

Environmental crime is a priority for law enforcement and I again want to commend the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Coast Guard for their outstanding work on this important prosecution.

Updated December 1, 2016