Princess Cruise Lines will pay a $40 million penalty after pleading guilty to seven federal charges in an illegal ocean pollution case that involved one ship's use of a so-called magic pipe to divert oily waste into the waters, authorities said Thursday. US Attorney Wifredo Ferrer told a news conference the penalty is the largest ever of its kind. Ferrer said the illegal practices came to light when an engineer aboard the Caribbean Princess discovered the "magic pipe" in 2013 off the coast of Great Britain and told investigators about it. Authorities later learned the 952-foot ship had been illegally discharging oily water into the ocean since 2005, the AP reports. "Our open seas are not dumping grounds for waste," Ferrer said.
A single illegal discharge dumped 4,227 gallons of oil-contaminated waste off the coast of England in August 2013, according to court documents. The documents also show illegal practices were found on four other Princess ships, including use of clean ocean water to fool onboard sensors that would otherwise detect dumping of improperly contaminated bilge water. Authorities say cost savings was the motive and that the ship's officers and crew conspired to cover up what was going on. An assistant attorney general with the Justice Department said the Caribbean Princess "violated the law, they covered it up, and then they lied about it." In a statement, Princess said it was "extremely disappointed" that employees had violated company policy and federal law.