Carnival Corporation has agreed to pay $18 million in fines and community service payments, and has pled guilty to six felony counts of lying to the U.S. Coast Guard about oily discharges from its vessels. In addition, the company will be placed on a five-year court-supervised probation, make a public admission and apology, and develop a new internal compliance department covering every ship in its fleet.

Carnival pled guilty to felony environmental violations related to oily waste discharges aboard the Tropicale, Sensation, Fantasy, Ecstasy, Paradise, and Imagination. The earliest of Carnival's violations cited in the sentencing document began in July 1998, during the very same period Royal Caribbean International (RCI) was embroiled in its own environmental travails, which ultimately led to $27 million in fines.

The most recent of Carnival's violations occurred in January 2001, after the International Council of Cruise Lines (ICCL) had announced its members' dedication to stringent environmental standards.

Explaining the exact nature and motivation behind the violations, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said Carnival engineers intentionally flushed clean water past the oil-content meters at the same time they flushed oily bilge waste water, thus "tricking" the content meters into thinking the waste being dumped into the sea was within legal limits. False representations of the oil content were then made by Carnival engineers in the Oil Record Books, said the DOJ. "This conduct enabled Carnival Corporation to avoid expenditures associated with the proper disposal of oily bilge waste water. Carnival avoided spending millions of dollars that would have been spent by properly disposing of the oil contaminated waste."

In addition to a $9 million fine, Carnival will pay an additional $9 million to cornrnunity organizations, and will not seek tax reductions from those payments or characterize them as voluntary contributions.

The U.S. government is also investigating potential violations by Norwegian Cruise Line. And in related news, California-based BlueWater Network and other advocacy groups filed suit on April 24 against Carnival, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, and RCI for allegedly violating California's ballast water regulatory law.