Big Cruise Line To Plead Guilty In Oil Dumping
By MATTHEW L. WALD Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., the world’s second-largest cruise line, announced today that it had agreed to plead guilty to Federal charges of dumping oil at sea, lying to the Coast Guard about the discharges and tampering with witnesses and evidence, and as a result would pay $9 million in penalties.
The illegal activity involved at least 5 of Royal Caribbean’s 12 ships. The company acknowledged that they had routinely dumped waste oil into the sea instead of sending it through purifying equipment for storage. In some cases the oil was pumped out of the ships through illegal pipes that were then removed by the crews just before Coast Guard inspections.
The practice saved tens of thousands of dollars a year per ship, the company said. In court, prosecutors said some officers had received bonuses for cutting operating costs.
The company is entering its guilty pleas, to eight felonies, in San Juan, P.R., and Miami this week and will pay an $8 million fine and an additional $1 million for environmental projects. The Justice Department said the $8 million was the largest environmental fine ever levied against a cruise line.
The offenses covered by the agreement occurred from 1990 to 1994, a period when Royal Caribbean’s stewards and deckhands wore buttons that said ”Save the Waves” and urged passengers not to bring on deck any paper goods or other objects that might blow overboard.
Until recently, Royal Caribbean, second in size only to Carnival among all cruise lines, had argued vigorously that it was immune from prosecution in the United States, since none of its ships are registered here. For instance, the company, whose main offices are in Miami, hired former Attorney General Benjamin R. Civiletti as its lawyer and brought in former Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson as a witness, to contend that under international treaties, discharges from one ship, the Nordic Empress, could be prosecuted only by Liberia, because the ship is registered there.
In a statement today, Royal Caribbean said its decision to plead guilty was ”based on a review of the available evidence, including evidence recently submitted by the Government.’