WASHINGTON -- Royal Caribbean Cruises agreed to pay a record $18
million fine for dumping oil-contaminated waste and other hazardous
chemicals in the waters of Miami; San Juan, Puerto Rico; New York;
Los Angeles; Anchorage, Alaska, and St. Thomas, U.S.V.I., and
trying to cover it up by lying to the Coast Guard.
The Justice Department said the fine will be the largest ever
paid by a cruise line for polluting U.S. waters, once the plea
agreement is approved by federal courts in those jurisdictions,
each of which will get a portion of the money.
The settlement comes just 13 months after the company agreed to
pay a $9 million fine, the previous record, for similar violations
in Miami and Puerto Rico.
In addition to the waste oil, pollutants that were dumped
included hazardous chemicals from photo-processing equipment, dry
cleaning shops and printing presses, in what the DOJ termed a
"They dumped everywhere," Attorney General Janet Reno said.
"They didn't care."
Some of the illegal activities occurred even as other crew
members on board wore Save the Waves buttons, and falsification of
records was so pervasive that some employees referred to the oil
record book carried on each ship as "The Fairy Tale Book," DOJ
The DOJ said the line continued its illegal dumping and
falsification of records after it was told in October 1994 that the
government had begun an investigation. Most of the offenses
occurred before 1997.
The government's high-profile press conference, intended in part
to send a message to the cruise industry, included the release of a
Coast Guard surveillance videotape that shows Royal Caribbean ships
dumping waste oil, and a before-and-after video showing the
destruction of a secret bypass pipe one ship used for the
DOJ officials said an investigation is continuing into the
potential responsibility of individuals within the company.
Royal Caribbean International president Jack Williams blamed
most the violations on "a group of our employees [who] knowingly
violated environmental laws and our company policy" and on "a lapse
in our enforcement efforts -- not a lapse in our corporate
conscience or our commitment to protecting the ocean."
The company also said it learned "important lessons" from the
investigation, has assigned an environmental officer to each ship
and has taken other steps to "build the most environmentally
responsible fleet and the most environmentally sensitive workforce
in the industry."
Royal Caribbean's waste disposal practices will be under the
supervision of the courts for five years.