April 20 (UPI) -- A federal judge imposed a $40 million fine on Princess Cruise Lines for intentionally polluting the ocean and placed the Carnival Corporation subsidiary on probation for five years, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.
The DOJ said the fine represents the largest penalty for crimes involving deliberate vessel pollution in U.S. history.
The company previously agreed to plead guilty to seven felony charges for illegally dumping 4,227 gallons of oily waste 23 miles off the coast of Britain on Aug. 23, 2013, within the country's Exclusive Economic Zone. The company also falsified official logs in order to hide the pollution. Officials said the pollution also occurred in U.S. waters.
"These violations of law were serious, longstanding and designed to conceal illegal discharges," Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood said in a statement. "The sentence in this case should ensure that these crimes do not take place in the future and should also send a strong message to others that illegally polluting U.S. waters will not be tolerated."
Officials launched an investigation after an engineer on the Caribbean Princess ship, which belongs to Princess Cruise Lines, reported to authorities that the ship's crew was using an illicit pipe to discharge waste.
After the engineer reported the incident, the ship's senior engineers "ordered a coverup, including removal of the magic pipe and directing subordinates to lie," the Justice Department said in a statement.
Eight Carnival subsidiaries will be audited for the next five years by a court-supervised Environmental Compliance Program. U.S. District Judge Patricia A. Seitz also ordered that the engineer who alerted authorities be paid $1 million.
"Without the courageous act of a junior crewmember to alert authorities to these criminal behaviors of deliberately dumping oil at sea, the global environmental damage caused by the Princess fleet could have been much worse," U.S. Coast Guard official Scott Buschman said in a statement. "The selflessness of this individual exposed five different ships that embraced a culture of shortcuts and I am pleased at this outcome."
The Caribbean Princess is accused of illegally discharging waste since 2005. Four other ships also were found to have used illegal means to pollute the ocean.
"A perceived motive for the crimes was financial -- the chief engineer that ordered the dumping off the coast of England told subordinate engineers that it cost too much to properly offload the waste in port and that the shore-side superintendent who he reported to would not want to pay the expense," the Justice Department previously wrote.