Last week a number of news organizations reported on the story about the release of hydrogen sulfide aboard the Monarch of the Seas in 2005 which killed three crewmembers, injured at least nineteen other ship employees and threatened the health of thousands of cruise passengers.
We blogged about this disastrous event last week in our article "Royal Caribbean Demonstrated "Gross Indifference" to Passengers' Lives." Our article followed NBC Los Angeles's report that a Miami Judge found that Royal Caribbean Cruises demonstrated "a gross indifference to the life and health" of passengers by continuing to cruise with a ship that "that allowed poison gas exposure to its passengers."
In following up on this story, we found that Royal Caribbean staff captain Bjørn Eidissen, who is now at the center of this story, reported that four months after the poison gas incident, the Monarch of the Seas dumped "tons" of sediment, chemicals and bacteria while the cruise ship was approaching a dry dock in January of 2006.
Staff Captain Bjørn Eidissen was apparently on vacation when this occurred, but he subsequently complained on an U.S. Coast Guard forum that the dumping was reported to CEO Richard Fain. Yet, the cruise line apparently did not report this intentional discharge to the U.S. Coast Guard.
Here is what staff captain Bjørn Eidissen posted online in 2008:
"Need to report of environmental crime and ships safety issue . .
Cruiseship Monarch of the Seas, while underway to dry dock in Jan. 2006. San Fransisco
emptied tanks to sea, against Marpol and Royal Caribbeans SQM environmental policy.
Tank concern was DD11,usen as fixed ballast, contained tons of sediment,chemicals,and bacterias . . the tank had been the source of an accident in San Pedro Sept. 2nd.2005. Methan gas accident, 3 casualties.
Probobly cause of the crime,was to save money and time in Drydock, cleaningwork was scheduled. According to ships stability manual,DD11 was not to be emptied at sea,due to negative stability would occour. Ship had approx. 1000 peoples onboard,crew and contractors
The ballastrepport sendt to USCG does not reflect correct status,as the tank was emptied just before DD.and was free of liquids when entering drydock.
Ship was given gas free cerificate by the yard,although over 100ppm methane and H2S was measured when in ddrydock . . cleaning work was cancelled due to that fact. The most serious action was putting the cruiseship in negative stability jepardizing all lifes onboard,in addition to the environmental crime by discharging the tank inside legal borders.
This was reported to CEO Richard Fain early may 2006,by mail from Norway, but no action was taken, and ot was not reported to USCG,as the intention of the repoting letter was.
Please take notice of this message and forward it to whom it may concern. Please contact by e-mail Chief Officer Jan Andreassen..e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or Captain B.Eidissen mail email@example.com, chief officer was onboard at the time of the crime,and witness all actions.but was kept out of the loop by RCCL superintendant and Chief Engineer - Chief Officer protested, but was not heard. I was at home in Norway when I was told by acting Captain Jørn Clausen, that the tank had been emptied against his knowledge, and had put him in a imposssible position towards the cruise company, and coast Guard.
I took action from Norway,while on vacation, and wrote to CEO Richard Fain, as mentioned erlyer, but it has come to my knowledge that the cruise company Royal caribbean International, did not pass my report over to USCG, as whas my intention with lthe report in the first place.
Please forward this message to coast guard high ranking officers,PLEASE,IMPORTANT
It has seemed almost impassible to get authorities here in Norway,to understand the seriousness of this crime,and to even believe in it.
Thanks for your help.
Captain Bjørn Eidissen"
Assuming this information is accurate, did Royal Caribbean cover this up? I see no mention that this incident was reported to the Coast Guard or that there were any fines levied against the cruise line.
Royal Caribbean has a dreadful history of environmental crimes and a corporate culture of covering the crimes up.
In the late 1990's, the U.S. Coast Guard caught Royal Caribbean engaged in widespread dumping of oil and chemicals. The Justice Department responded by fining the cruise line $1,000,000. In response, the cruise line went to its PR people who dreamed up a campaign of "Save the Waves." The PR experts posed the cruise line as a leader in protecting the environment. Royal Caribbean posted this mantra on signs all over its cruise ships. All of the waiters, bar tenders, and cabin attendants had to wear "Save the Waves" badges touting the cruise line's commitment to protecting the seas on which it sailed.
The problem, however, is that the cruise line didn't change its ways. Royal Caribbean continued to illegally discharge oil, waste and fecal matter everywhere from the Caribbean to the pristine waters of Alaska.
The Feds caught Royal Caribbean dumping again. And the U.S. government fined the cruise line again - this time $8,000,000 - and placed it on probation. Did Royal Caribbean learn its lesson? No, the illegal discharges increased. While the crew members wore their "save the waves" buttons above deck while serving passengers cocktails, Royal Caribbean engineers below the decks fabricated secret by-pass values to dump everything from raw sewage to chemicals used in the photography labs directly into the ocean. Royal Caribbean cruise ship even dumped oil and sewage into the waters right outside of the executives' windows overlooking Biscayne Bay.
The U.S. Attorney General, Janet Reno, a Miami resident herself and an environmentalist as well, was not amused. The discrepancy between how the cruise held itself out to the public as a green company versus its actual criminal conduct was not lost on the Attorney General. By the time she was through, Royal Caribbean pled guilty to multiple felonies, received another whopping fine of $18,000,000, and agreed to a five year probation.
The U.S. leveled the felony charges not just because of the repeated and massive scale of the dumping of pollutants but because the cruise line continued to lie. U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno stated at a press conference:
. . . at the same time that their ships were sailing into the inland passage of Alaska, one of the most sensitive and beautiful eco-systems in our nation, their crew members were wearing buttons that said, 'Save the Waves.' That's what they were wearing above deck. Below deck, business as usual was going on and oily contaminated bilge water was being dumped overboard . . .
Attorney General Reno was rightfully outraged: " . . . if people flim-flam us, they should expect the consequences . . ." When the sentencing was over, the U.S. Government fined Royal Caribbean a total of $27,000,000 and placed the cruise line on probation for five years.
A number of environmental organizations considered Royal Caribbean to be the poster child for cruise dumping. The Oceana organization initiated a campaign against the cruise line which included flying banners over Royal Caribbean ships saying "Got Sewage? Royal Caribbean Dumps Daily."
Did the cruise line resort to its old ways and empty the bilges of the Monarch of the Seas off of the shores of San Francisco in 2006?
Does anyone have information about this January 2006 alleged incident?
June 20, 2011 Update: This article was picked as a top 10 law blog by LexBlog.
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