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HomeNewsArchivesCRUISE LINE HIT WITH $1.5 MILLION FINE FOR ST. CROIX POLLUTION

CRUISE LINE HIT WITH $1.5 MILLION FINE FOR ST. CROIX POLLUTION

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines will pay a $1.5 million fine in the District Court of the Virgin Islands for illegal discharges of polluted water from one of its ships docked in Frederiksted and for making false statements to the U.S. Coast Guard in St. Thomas.
According to James Hurd, U.S. Attorney for the Virgin Islands, Royal Caribbean entered a guilty plea on two counts in District Court on St. Croix Wednesday. The penalty is part of a larger $18 million in criminal fines for 21 environmental offenses in six different judicial districts, Hurd said.
If the plea agreement is approved by all the district courts involved, the $18 million fine will be the largest ever paid in an environmental case involving cruise ships. Lynn Martenstein, Royal Caribbean’s vice president of corporate relations, said the fines won’t alter any of the company’s cruise itineraries.
According to Hurd, "each and every time" Royal Caribbean’s Song of America was docked in Frederiksted in the summer and fall of 1994, the ship’s crew discharged "gray water" containing toxic heavy metal silver from the ship’s photo lab and perchlorosthylene from its dry cleaner.
Hurd said that while ships are allowed to discharge gray water from dishwashers, showers, laundry, baths and wash basins, water containing perchlorosthylene or silver is supposed to be separated and held in on-board tanks.
Martenstein said that in January 1996, the cruise line had an outside consultant run tests on the gray water, specifically for silver. She said silver was non detectable. However, Martenstein said the consultant questioned the practice and the mixing was stopped.
"There was no question, we were putting the silver and perchlorosthylene in the gray water," Martenstein said. "We thought we were in compliance with the law. Now we recycle both the perc and silver."
According to the plea agreement, Royal Caribbean admitted that on or about March 5, 1997 in St. Thomas, crew members submitted a false Oil Record Book to the Coast Guard for the Grandeur of the Seas cruise ship.
Hurd said that all Royal Caribbean ships are required to have an oil water separator that allows clean bilge water to be pumped overboard while bilge oil is kept inboard for proper disposal. Instead, Hurd said that from approximately Nov. 20, 1996 through March 1997, the Grandeur of the Seas’ crew "regularly bypassed the oil water separator to discharge oil-contaminated bilge waste…" and then posted false entries into the ship’s oil record book saying that overboard discharges contained little or no oil.
Martenstein said all of Royal Caribbean’s 16 ships have "brand-spanking new" bilge water cleaning equipment and environmental officers onboard. And four of the offending vessels are no longer in the company’s inventory, she said.
"We are profoundly sorry that a group of our employees knowingly violated environmental laws and our own company policy," Royal Caribbean International President Jack Williams said in a statement. "The majority of these violations reflect a lapse in our enforcement efforts, not a lapse in our corporate conscience or our commitment to protecting the ocean."
As part of the plea agreement, Royal Caribbean will be on probation for five years and will continue to report quarterly on its environmental compliance plan approved by a district court judge in the Southern District of Florida. That district is one of six, including the V.I.; Alaska; the Southern District of New York; Puerto Rico and the Central District of California, where Royal Caribbean plead guilty to 21 environmental offenses totaling $18 million. In addition, the company paid $9 million last year for other violations.
"It is critically important to protect the natural resources of the Virgin Islands for the welfare of our community, for the future of our children and for the enjoyment of our visitors," Hurd said. "While we continue to welcome the cruise ship industry to the Virgin Islands, this prosecution should send a signal that the laws designed to protect our environment will be enforced and those who violate them will be prosecuted."

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