As a result of its voluntary reporting of irregularities, Norwegian Cruise Line Limited
(NCL) has reached an agreement with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida and the US Department of Justice to plead guilty to a single count of violation of Title 33, U.S.C., Section 1908, for the knowing failure to maintain an accurate Oil Record Book aboard the S.S. Norway prior to May 2000. Under the plea agreement, NCL has agreed to pay a fine of $1 million, be placed on probation, and maintain a comprehensive environmental compliance plan.
NCL discovered reporting irregularities and improper use of on board oil/water separators during a fleet-wide independent environmental audit as part of a new management review shortly after Star Cruises gained control of the company in February 2000. NCL immediately reported these problems to the US government in May 2000, and took steps to stop further violations and to correct the underlying problems. The plea agreement represents the culmination of two years of cooperation between NCL and the U. S government agencies involved.
"Our company is committed to protecting the environment," said Colin Veitch, President and Chief Executive Officer of NCL since its purchase by Star Cruises Plc in February 2000. "We deeply regret the past actions we found upon our purchase of NCL. Along with the government, we deplore that the standards of this reputable company were allowed to drop in this way in the years leading up to its acquisition, but I am personally proud of the way our company has stepped up to its responsibilities for environmental protection during the past two and a half years."
The plea agreement cites the knowing failure to log and report as required the incorrect operation of the oil/water separators on the SS Norway and the overboard discharge of oily bilge water over the legal limit of 15 parts per million between 1997 and May 2000, when NCL reported its internal findings.
"We took responsibility and fixed the problem, at a very substantial cost," Veitch said. "Instead of stalling or stonewalling, we cooperated fully with the government throughout this period."
Remedial actions taken by NCL include terminating or accepting resignations of executive and management employees in the shore side operational group responsible for the running of its ships, putting in place across its fleet an entirely new environmental compliance program including upgraded equipment, comprehensive waste management (WM)
and reporting systems, annual audits, Environmental Officers on all ships, and a new department shore side headed by a senior executive responsible for environmental and regulatory compliance.
"This agreement is a concrete example of NCL's commitment to full compliance with all environmental laws and regulations, and to operational practices of the highest standard," Veitch said. "We are pleased to have the investigation and correction of this regrettable violation behind us. We are a stronger and healthier company now."
The plea agreement reflects the government's recognition of the extent of NCL's cooperation, including substantial assistance in the investigation, waiver of privilege, institution of prompt remedial action, and installation of a compliance program to prevent future violations.