Cruise Dumping Case Sparks Questions A record $9 million fine against Royal Caribbean for dumping oily waste into the ocean has raised awareness about a serious problem in the booming cruise line industry. After a four-year investigation by the U.S. Coast Guard and Justice Department, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. pleaded guilty to conspiracy and obstruction of justice last June--admitting to a fleetwide conspiracy to rig pipes to bypass anti-pollution equipment. A month after Royal Caribbean, a Liberian corporation with headquarters in Miami, apologized and promised to clean up its act, another of its ships was caught discharging waste and falsifying records to cover it up.
Royal Caribbean is not alone. According to The New York Times, other cruise lines have been fined at least six times in recent years for dumping oil and garbage. Last summer, the Holland America Line, a division of the Carnival Corporation, pleaded guilty to dumping in Alaska's Inside Passage and was charged $2 million in fines.
It's not easy to identify a cruise line with poor environmental standards. You can find out if a company has been caught breaking anti-pollution laws in U.S. waters by filing a freedom of information request with the Coast Guard. But that doesn't cover dumping in foreign waters.
Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean appears to be cleaning up its act. The company claims to have instituted extensive environmental training programs, stationed environmental officers and installed new water filtering systems on each ship, and hired a vice president to oversee environmental compliance.