According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), from 2003 to around 2013, engineers on the Caribbean Princess, Star Princess, Grand Princess, Coral Princess and Golden Princess by-passed the oil-water separators (OWS) and released oily substances into the oceans. These employees of Princess Cruises used a number of techniques, including the so-called “magic pipes” and running clean water past the sensors of the OWS to prevent the system from triggering an alarm. The engineers lied and falsified oil logs on the ships.
On the Caribbean Princess, once a whistleblower reported the environmental violations, the senior ship engineers dismantled the bypass pipe and instructed crew members to lie.
These illegal practices on the Princess cruise ships took place over nearly a ten year period of time.
Why didn’t the DOJ arrest a single one of the engineers engaged in the illegal practices? I have received many inquiries from people asking why no one, including cruise executives, will serve jail time?
A couple of years ago, Captain reported that “two high-ranking ship engineers were sentenced to prison … after being convicted of using a so-called “magic pipe” to illegally dump oil sludge and wastewater overboard from their ship and then attempting to cover it up.” The sentencing involved the chief engineer and second engineer of the Ocean Hope, a Greek operated cargo ship, who were convicted of conspiracy, violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, obstruction of justice and witness tampering by a federal jury in Greenville, North Carolina.
Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden of the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division stated: “This case shows that polluting the ocean with oily waste and sludge will land you in jail . . .”
Cruden was also involved in the original Princess Cruises investigation, where the misconduct involved more ships for a far longer period of time.
So why the difference? Princess Cruises and parent company Carnival Corporation clearly wanted to put this debacle behind them, so they apparently cut a deal which eliminated the possibility that the DOJ would be eliciting sworn testimony from any of the shipboard employees. The DOJ press release indicated that Princess engineers on the Caribbean Princess believed that the shore-side superintendent, like the chief engineer on the ship overseeing the cover-up, suffered from the braccino corto complex (an Italian expression for a cheap person whose arms are too short to reach his wallet).
So the engineers’ testimony could have implicated Princess Cruises’ shore-side supervisors. And once its was proven that an audit of the vessel expenses showed that there were no costs for offloading and legally disposing the oily waste, the only issue is how many people in Princess Cruises’ and Carnival’s headquarters in Santa Clarita and Miami were involved in the conspiracy. The cruise executives wanted to maintain plausible deniability which would not be possible if their senior engineers were going to face prosecution and began pointing their fingers at the corporate offices. So, in my view, Carnival Corporation and Princess Cruises negotiated a settlement with a relatively small fine, which avoided their greatest concern that the DOJ’s investigation would reveal the senior shipboard officers’ criminal conduct and, in turn, expose the shoreside managers and executives to criminal liability.
The DOJ touted that the case involved the “the largest-ever criminal penalty involving deliberate vessel pollution.” But the reality is that polluting the oceans will not land you in jail if you are an engineer on a cruise ship who can implicate the owners and executives in the pollution, lies and cover-up.
Of course, we now know that Carnival Corporation did not learn anything after being caught with its widespread pollution and lying and being fined $40,000,000 several years ago. The Carnival-owned ships continued to illegally discharge grey water, sewage and plastics from their ships, from Glacier Bay in Alaska to the water of the Bahamas, according to findings submitted to the Court by the Court Appointed Monitor (CAM). All Princess Cruises and Carnival Corporation had to do was just pay another fine, a paltry $20,000,000, from its tax-free bounty of $3,200,000,000 in profits from last year alone.
Without jail time and personal liability of the engineers and executives, the Carnival-owned ships will continue illegally discharging oil, sewage, plastics, and grey water. Carnival has an endless source of money that can fund $20,000,000 fines, just like you or me handing out $5 bills.
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Photo credit: Star Princess – Jim Walker